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Study Notes: Govt of India Act - 1935


Contributed By: C.L. Verma 

The “Government of India Act 1935” was originally passed in August 1935 and is said to have been the longest (British) Act of Parliament ever enacted by that time. Because of its length, the Act was retroactively split by the Government of India (Reprinting) Act 1935 into two separate Acts:

  • The Government of India Act 1935
  • The Government of Burma Act 1935

References in literature on Indian political and constitutional history are usually to the shortened Government of India Act 1935, rather than to the text of the Act as originally enacted.

 The most significant aspects of the Act were: 

  • The grant of a large measure of autonomy to the provinces of British India (ending the system of dyarchy introduced by the Government of India Act 1919).
  • Provision for the establishment of a “Federation of India”, to be made up of both British India and some or all of the “princely states”.
  • The introduction of direct elections, thus increasing the franchise from seven million to thirty-five million people.
  • A partial reorganization of the provinces:
    • Sindh was separated from Bombay.
    • Bihar and Orissa were split into separate provinces of Bihar and Orissa.
    • Burma was completely separated from India.
    • Aden was also detached from India, and established as a separate colony.
    • Membership of the provincial assemblies was altered so as to include more elected Indian representatives, who were now able to form majorities and be appointed to form governments.
    • The establishment of a Federal Court.

However, the degree of autonomy introduced at the provincial level was subject to important limitations:

  • The Provincial Governors retained important reserve powers, and
  • The British authorities also retained a right to suspend responsible government.

 The parts of the Act intended to establish the Federation of India never came into operation, due to opposition from rulers of the princely states. The remaining parts of the Act came into force in 1937, when the first elections under the Act were also held.