The Government of India Act, 1935 marked a milestone towards achieving a completely responsible government in India.Discuss
The Government of India act of 1935 was indeed a milestone in more ways than one. For one
provided for a Federal Polity in India which was a long sought after demand of the Indians. It also
provided for the abolishing of the Dyarchy at the provincial level.
It was a detailed document, the structure of which was also used to design the structural part of the
Indian Constitution after Independence.
The Act was based on:
• Simon Commission Report
• The recommendations of the Round Table Conferences
• The White Paper published by the British government in 1933 (based on the Third Round
• Report of the Joint Select Committees
Salient features of this Act were as follows:
1..It provided for the establishment of an All-India Federation consisting of provinces and princely
states as units. The Act divided the powers between the Centre and units in terms of three lists—
Federal List (for Centre, with 59 items), Provincial List (for provinces, with 54 items) and the
Concurrent List (for both, with 36 items). Residuary powers were given to the Viceroy. However, the
federation never came into being as the princely states did not join it.
2.It abolished dyarchy in the provinces and introduced ‘provincial autonomy’ in its place. The
provinces were allowed to act as autonomous units of administration in their defined spheres.
Moreover, the Act introduced responsible governments in provinces, that is, the governor was
required to act with the advice of ministers responsible to the provincial legislature. This came into
effect in 1937 and was discontinued in 1939.
3.It provided for the adoption of dyarchy at the Centre. Consequently, the federal subjects were
divided into reserved subjects and transferred subjects. However, this provision of the Act did not
come into operation at all.
4.It introduced bicameralism in six out of eleven provinces. Thus, the legislatures of Bengal, Bombay,
Madras, Bihar, Assam and the United Provinces were made bicameral consisting of a legislative
council (upper house) and a legislative assembly (lower house). However, many restrictions were
placed on them.
5.It further extended the principle of communal representation by providing separate electorates for
depressed classes (scheduled castes), women and labour (workers).
6.It abolished the Council of India, established by the Government of India Act of 1858. The
secretary of state for India was provided with a team of advisors.
7.It extended franchise. About 10 per cent of the total population got the voting right.
8.It provided for the establishment of a Reserve Bank of India to control the currency and credit of
9.It provided for the establishment of not only a Federal Public Service Commission but also a
Provincial Public Service Commission and Joint Public Service Commission for two or more provinces.
10.It provided for the establishment of a Federal Court, which was set up in 1937.
11. It provided for the following Reorganisation
Sindh was carved out of Bombay Presidency.
Bihar and Orissa were split.
Burma was severed off from India.
Aden was also separated from India and made into a Crown colony.
Despite it’s importance, the federal provisions of the act never came into practice as the princely
states refused to join.
The Indian leaders were not enthusiastic about the Act since despite granting provincial autonomy
the governors and the viceroy had considerable ‘special powers’.
Separate communal electorates were a measure through which the British wanted to ensure the
Congress Party could never rule on its own. It was also a way to keep the people divided.
In provinces, the governor still had extensive powers.
The act provided a rigid constitution with no possibility of internal growth. Right of Amendment was
reserved with the British Parliament