The Government of Indian Act was passed by the British parliament in 1935 and came into effect in 1937. It was based on a report by a Joint Select Committee, led by Lord Linlithgow, set up the two houses of the British parliament. The report, in turn, was the result of the Joint Committee’s scrutiny of the ‘White Paper’ – a scheme of constitutional proposals – prepared by the British government close on the heels of the Round Table conferences.
Features of the Act inducted in constitution
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.