Montagu - Chelmsford Reforms - [July 8, 1918] This Day in History

Montagu-Chelmsford Report, which formed the basis of the Government of India Act 1919, was published on 8th July 1918.

The Montagu Chelmsford reforms and the ensuing Government of India Act of 1919 are important chapters in the history of the Raj. They form an integral part of the UPSC syllabus and aspirants must know the fine print of the act and the reforms for the history section of the IAS exam.

What were the Montagu Chelmsford Reforms?

Lord Chelmsford and Edwin Montagu

  • Edwin Montagu was appointed the Secretary of State for India in 1917 and remained in that office till 1922. He was critical of the manner in which India was governed.
  • On 20th August 1917, Montagu presented the historic Montagu Declaration (August Declaration) in the British Parliament. This declaration proposed the increased participation of Indians in the administration and the development of self-governing institutions in India.
  • In 1917, Montagu visited India and held talks with the various representatives of Indian polity including Mahatma Gandhi and Muhammad Ali Jinnah.
  • He, along with the Governor-General of India Lord Chelmsford, brought out a detailed report titled Constitutional Reforms in India, also called the Montagu-Chelmsford Report. This report was published on 8th July 1918.
  • This report became the basis for the Government of India Act 1919 (alternatively called the Montagu-Chelmsford Reforms or Montford Reforms).
  • The report was rejected by most Indian leaders. Annie Besant (Born on October 1st, 1847) referred to it as ‘unworthy to be offered by England or to be accepted by India’.
  • Principal provisions of the GOI Act 1919:
    • Diarchy was introduced in the form of two classes of administrators namely, the Executive Councillors and the Ministers.
    • The governor was the executive head of the provincial government.
    • The subjects were classified into two lists – reserved and transferred. The reserved list was under the governor and the councillors and the transferred list was under the ministers.
    • The ministers were nominated from the elected members of the Legislative Council. They were responsible to the legislature whereas the councillors were not answerable to the legislature.
    • The size of the legislative assemblies was expanded with about 70% of the members being elected. The Act provided for class and communal electorates also. There were some provisions for women to vote but were limited in scope.
    • The governor had the veto authority over the council.
    • At the central government level, the Governor-General was the chief executive authority.
    • This report introduced the bicameral legislature with 2 houses – Legislative Assembly (forerunner of the Lok Sabha) and the Council of State (forerunner of the Rajya Sabha).
    • The viceroy’s executive council had 6 members out of which 3 were to be Indians.
    • Even though elections were introduced, the franchise was partial in nature, not universal. Only certain people who were propertied or had titles or held office could vote.
    • Detailed provisions of the Government of India Act 1919 are given in the BYJU’S NCERT Notes segment.
    • The act provided for the establishment of a public service commission for the first time.
    • It also produced an office of the High Commissioner for India in London.

What were the results of the Montagu-Chelmsford reforms?

  • The report was important in that for the first time, concrete steps were taken to include more Indians in the administration of their own country. Elections were introduced which no doubt brought about a political consciousness among educated Indians at least.
  • But the reforms fell short of satisfying the grievances and legitimate demands of Indian nationalists. The Viceroy still had vast powers to undermine the effectiveness of the legislatures. Also, the franchise was very limited and narrow.

It was stated in the Montagu-Chelmsford report that a survey must be made after 10 years. To this effect, Sir John Simon (Simon Commission) was in charge of the survey that recommended further changes. There were three roundtable conferences held in 1931, 1932 and 1933 in London. But no headway was made in any of them.

The major disagreement between the Indian National Congress and the British was separate electorates for each community which Congress opposed, but they were retained in Ramsay MacDonald’s Communal Award. A new Government of India Act 1935 was passed continuing the move towards self-government first made in the Montagu-Chelmsford Report.

Montagu-Chelmsford Reforms – UPSC Notes:- Download PDF Here

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