The Montague-Chelmsford Reforms of 1919 had brought a large scale discontentment among the people of India. The Non-Cooperation Movement launched by Gandhi had fanned the fire of this discontentment.
In order to give some concession to Indians in the field of administration, the Government of India Act, 1935 was designed on the basis of the recommendation of Simon Commission. It envisaged an administrative set-up for India such as:
1. A Federal government would be established in India with the inclusion of the native States.
2. Diarchy introduced by the Act. Of 1919 should be abolished from the State and established in the Centre.
3. The provinces would be given complete autonomy and the administrative subjects divided into three lists i.e. Federal List that included the subjects assigned to the Central Government; the Provincial List that consisted of all the subjects under the sole jurisdiction of the provinces and finally, the Concurrent List upon whose subjects both the Centre and Provinces would exercise their combined authority.
4. A Federal Court was established at the Centre.
Besides these main provisions, it also contained the provisions of the formation of the provinces of Sindh and Orissa, separate and communal electorate system with reduction of the qualification of voters; separation of Burma and Aden from India and so on.
Accordingly, the Home Government in England was reformed. The Indian Council was abolished and a few advisers varying from 3 to 6 were appointed to advise the Secretary of States in his policy formulation towards India. The Secretary was normally not expected to poke his nose in the Indian affairs which were to be carried on by Governors.
Further, a High Commission was to be appointed by the Viceroy of India for a period of five years.
Coming to the Federal Government, the Viceroy remained its head. He exercised a wide range of power concerning administration, legislation and finance.
The Act had created provisions for Reserved Subjects which were looked after by Viceroy through Executive Councilors and transferred Subjects through the Indian ministers, not more than 10 in number selected from the Legislature.
Thus, this system of Diarchy was fully introduced in the Centre. At the Centre the Federal Legislature consisted of two Houses, the Council of States and Federal Assembly consisting of 260 and 375 members respectively. The Council of States (Upper House) was permanent body whose one-third members retired every year.
In case of the Provincial Government, the Governor carried on the administration with the help of a Council of Ministers selected by him from among the members of the Provincial Legislature. Of course, the composition of the Provincial Legislature was different in several Provinces.
The Legislatures of U.P., Bihar, Assam, Bengal, Madras and Bombay consisted of two Houses – the Legislative Assembly and the Legislative Council whereas in other provinces, it consisted of one House i.e. Legislative Assembly. The members of these Houses varied from Province to Province.
The India Act of 1935 was sugarcoated quinine as was apparent from the very beginning. Though it introduced Diarchy in the Centre and autonomy in the Province but the power of the elected or nominated members were limited. Further, it fanned the fire of communalism by retaining separate reserved electorates. In actual practice, this Act did not create scope for the self-experience of the Indian Legislators as they enjoyed only limited powers.
On the other hand, the India Act, 1935 had its merits too. It introduced Diarchy in the Centre and granted provincial autonomy. It also created field for some practical experiences on the part of Indian leaders. In the ensuing election of 1936-37, the All-India Congress gained majority in Madras, Bombay, Central Provinces, U.P., Bihar and Orissa. In Assam and northwestern frontier, it became the largest single party.
Similarly, the Muslim League got absolute majority in Sindh. The legislators got experience in forming ministry in these provinces. The most important fact regarding the achievement of the Act can be stated that the political experience ingenerated in the minds of the Indian leaders went a long way in making the people of India conscious for their political liberty which they achieved in 1947.