Government of India Acts

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(1919, 1935)

Two British Acts of Parliament which determined the structure of government in India. They were created with the aim of appeasing Indian nationalism and preventing India's eventual independence. In this sense, their outcome was completely the opposite of what had been intended. The controversy surrounding them agitated the Indian National Congress (INC) even more, while their provision of greater Indian participation in government gave Indians the administrative and political experience for successful independent statehood. The Government of India Act (1919) established a bicameral legislative parliament for all British India, but without the power to restrain the Viceroy's executive. In the provinces, the Act aimed to prepare Indians for ‘responsible government’ through the system of dyarchy.

This system of dyarchy was abolished by the Government of India Act (1935, implemented 1937), which gave the provincial assemblies full responsibility for government. It also removed Aden and Burma from the administration of British India. Finally, it proposed that the Indian Empire be transformed into a federal dominion, which would have included the princely states, though this section of the Act was never implemented. Though heavily criticized at the time, provincial assemblies gave the INC and the Muslim League a crucial platform, and provided them with the opportunity to demonstrate their popularity for the first time in the 1937 popular elections. The 1935 Government of India Act remained the basis of government after independence, until the adoption of a new Constitution in India (1950) and Pakistan (1956).

Subjects: Contemporary History (Post 1945).

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