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Mains Answer Writing

5-January-2024

Q1) The dyarchy introduced by the Montague-Chelmsford reforms of 1919 was a far cry from devolution of power to a representative and responsible government which could satisfy the rising national sentiment among Indians. Examine.

ANSWER

The Montague-Chelmsford reforms were the initiative of the British government towards furthering the process of constitutional reforms in the country. The Government of India Act, 1919 was enacted on the basis of these reforms:

  1. Introduction of dyarchy:
  2. a) The act introduced dyarchy, i.e., rule of two, for the executive at the level of the provincial government. The subjects were divided in two lists viz., reserved and transferred.
  3. b) The reserved subjects were to be administered by the governor through the executive council of bureaucrats. E.g., law and order, finance, land revenue etc.
  4. c) The transferred subjects were to be administered by ministers nominated from among the elected members of the legislative council. E.g., education, health, local government etc.
  5. d) The interference of secretary of state for India and the governor general with respect to the transferred subjects was limited.
  6. Seventy percent of the members in the expanded provincial councils were to be elected.
  7. The legislative councils could reject budgets. However, the governor had the power to restore it, if necessary.
  8. The legislative councils could initiate legislations, but the governor’s assent was required. At the same time, the governor had the power to veto bills as well as to issue ordinances.
  9. While women were extended the right to vote, the system of communal and class electorates was consolidated.
  10. Reforms at the level of Central government:
  11. The governor general continued to be the chief executive authority.
  12. There were two list for administration viz. central and provincial.
  13. At the centre a bicameral arrangement was introduced.
  14. The council of state had a tenure of 5 years and had only male members, while the central legislative assembly had a tenure of 3 years.

The scheme of constitutional changes introduced through the Montague-Chelmsford reforms could not satisfy the national sentiments among Indians as:

  1. Ill-conceived system of dyarchy:
  2. a) The division of subjects at the level of provinces was irrational. E.g., subjects like irrigation, land revenue were reserved.
  3. b) As finance continued to be a reserved subject, the promise of a representative and responsible government remained a sham.
  4. c) The administration of justice remained a pipe dream as both police and justice remained reserved subjects.
  5. At the centre, the legislature had no control over the viceroy and his executive council.
  6. Even though the electorate was extended to some one-and-a half million for central legislature, it was very limited. E.g., the population of India, as per an estimate, was around 260 million at that time.
  7. Allocation of seats for central legislature to the provinces was based on the ‘importance’ of the provinces, hence the system was not entirely democratic at its outset. E.g., military importance of Punjab; commercial importance of Bombay.
  8. At the level of the provinces, the ministers had no control over the bureaucrats, who were responsible for the implementation of the schemes. This rendered the arrangement of dyarchy unworkable.

Even though the Montague-Chelmsford reforms are seen as landmark with regard to the constitutional reforms in colonial era, however they actually, on the ground, had a very limited impact with regard to satisfying the Indian aspirations

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