Montagu-Chelmsford Reforms


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Montagu-Chelmsford Reforms

 

(Government of India Act of 1919), a law on the administration of India adopted by the British Parliament in 1919, when the Indian national liberation movement was growing stronger. The reforms developed out of a report published in 1918 by E. Montagu, secretary of state for India, and Lord Chelmsford, viceroy of India, after whom it was named.

The Montagu-Chelmsford Reforms provided for the establishment of a bicameral legislature subordinate to the governor-general and consisting of the Council of State and the Legislative Assembly. Some of the members of these legislative bodies were to be appointed. The governor-general retained the right to veto bills.

In the largest provinces the new law introduced dyarchy, or dual power, a complicated and confusing system of dividing power among different departments. Some of the ministers (department heads) were responsible to the legislative bodies, but others were responsible to the provincial governors. Essentially, dyarchy made it impossible for the new bodies to act with any degree of effectiveness.

The Montagu-Chelmsford Reforms retained the principle of separate religious communal constituencies, which had been introduced in 1909. Only about 1 percent of the Indian population was granted the right to vote for representatives to the national legislative bodies, and about 3 percent received the right to vote in elections to the provincial bodies. The Montagu-Chelmsford Reforms did not change the essential character of colonial rule and provoked protests by various strata of Indian society. The Indian National Congress boycotted the 1921 elections. Nevertheless, the Montagu-Chelmsford Reforms remained in force until 1935.

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