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Government of India Act 1935, Background, Features, Provision

Government of India Act 1935

  • In August 1935, the British Parliament passed the Government of India Act, which held the distinction of being the longest legislation passed by the British Parliament at that time.
  • The Government of India Act of 1935 and the Government of Burma Act of 1935 were treated as separate and distinct acts.
  • This historical legislation is a significant topic within modern Indian history, especially for those preparing for government examinations.
  • This article provides essential insights into the Government of India Act 1935, offering valuable information for candidates.
  • For additional important topics, individuals can explore the adda247.com website as a resource

Government of India Act 1935- A Brief Overview

The Government of India Act 1935 holds the utmost importance in the history of India. Given below is a detailed study of the same.
Government of India Act 1935: A Brief Overview 
Aim An Act to make further provision for the Government of India
Territorial Extent Territories under the direct control of the British
Enacted by United Kingdom Parliament
Royal Assent 24th July 1935
Commenced 1st April 1937
Status Annulled on 26th January 1950 in India

Government of India Act 1935 – Study of the background

Indian leaders were clamoring more and more for constitutional changes in their country. The following incidents escalated the need for the Government of India Act 1935:
  • India’s assistance to Britain during the First World War helped the British realize the importance of including more Indians in the governance of their own nation.
  • The Act’s foundation was based on:
  1. Simon Commission Report
  2. The recommendations of the Round Table Conferences
  3. The White Paper published by the British government in 1933 (based on the Third Round Table Conference)

Grounds for creating an All India Federation

The envisioned federation was intended to encompass both the princely states and British India. While British Indian provinces were mandated to be part of this union, the princely states were given the option to join voluntarily. However, despite the initial aspiration for this collective governance structure, the federation never came into existence. The primary reason for its failure lay in the fact that it could not garner the essential support from the requisite number of princely states. Consequently, this ambitious plan for a unified federation between princely states and British India remained unrealized.

Government of India Act 1935 – Division of Powers

This Act divided powers between the center and the provinces. There were three lists which gave the subjects under each government.
  • Federal List (Centre)
  • Provincial List (Provinces)
  • Concurrent List (Both)
Meanwhile, the Viceroy was vested with residual powers. Certain changes that were brought through the Government of India Act, 1935 have been enumerated below.

Provincial Autonomy

  1. The Act offered more autonomy to the provinces.
  2. Diarchy was prohibited at the provincial level.
  3. The Governor was the head of the executive.
  4. There was a Council of Ministers to guide him. The ministers were responsible to the provincial legislatures who controlled them. The legislature could also terminate the ministers.
  5. The governors still retained unique reserve powers.
  6. The British authorities could still suspend a provincial government.

Federal Court

  • A federal court was established in Delhi for the resolution of disputes between provinces and also between the centre and the provinces.
  • It was to have one Chief Justice and not more than 6 judges.

Indian Council

  • The Indian Council was abolished.
  • The Secretary of State for India would instead have a team of advisors.


  • This Act introduced a provision for direct elections in India for the first time.


  • Sindh was carved out of the Bombay Presidency.
  • Bihar and Orissa were divided into two separate states.
  • Burma was separated from India.
  • Aden was also cut off from India and made into a Crown colony.

Diarchy at the Centre

  • The Federal List was divided into Reserved and Transferred subjects.
  • Reserved subjects were under the control of the Governor-General, assisted by three appointed councilors who were not accountable to the legislature.
  • Reserved subjects included defense, ecclesiastical affairs, external affairs, press, police, taxation, justice, power resources, and tribal affairs.
  • Transferred subjects were administered by the Governor-General and his Council of Ministers, with a maximum of ten members.
  • They had to collaborate with the legislature.
  • Transferred subjects encompassed areas such as local government, forests, education, health, and more.
  • The Governor-General had ‘special powers’ to intervene in Transferred subjects when necessary.

Bicameral Federal Legislature

  • A bicameral federal legislature was to be established.
  • The two houses were the Federal Assembly (lower house) and the Council of States (upper house).
  • The federal assembly had a term of five years.
  • Both houses had representatives from the princely states as well. The representatives of the princely states were to be nominated by the rulers (not elected). The representatives of British India were to be elected. Some were to be nominated by the Governor-General.
  • Bicameral federal legislatures were introduced in some provinces such as Bengal, Madras, Bombay, Bihar, Assam, and the United Provinces.

Government of India Act 1935 – What followed

The Act was a turning point in India’s transition to becoming a responsible constitutional administration. After India gained independence, the Constitution of India took the place of the Government of India Act of 1935.
  • The fact that the viceroy and governors had a lot of “special powers” despite the Act providing provinces autonomy did not impress the leaders of India.
  • The British used separate communal electorates as a tool to ensure that the Congress Party could never rule alone.
  • Additionally, it served to keep the general masses divided.

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What was one of the main features of the Government Act of 1935?

The act proposed constitutional proposals and reforms and had the following features which included the bicameral legislature, provincial autonomy, separate communal electorate and the creation of an all India federation. -Important feature of the Government of India Act 1935 was the bicameral legislature.

What was the purpose of the Government of India Act 1935?

The act provided for the establishment of Reserve Bank of India. The Act also provided for the establishment of federal, provincial and joint Public Service Commissions. The Act was a milestone in the development of a responsible constitutional government in India.

Who described the Government of India Act 1935?

Jawahar Lal Nehru mentions Government of india Act 1935 as the “Charter of Slavery” and compares it with a “machine with all brakes, no engine“.

Who introduced Government of India Act 1935?

The Government of India Act 1935 was an Act passed by the British Parliament that originally received royal assent in August 1935. It was the longest Act that the British Parliament ever enacted until the Greater London Authority Act 1999 surpassed it.

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