Topic: Montague-Chelmsford Reforms and
Its Provisions and Limitations
Question : Briefly discuss the Montague – Chelmsford reforms?
Edwin Montague became the Secretary of the State in 1917.
Lord Chelmsford became the Viceroy in 1916. He realized the urgency in granting
some political concessions to Indians if only to act as speed breaker to the
rising political discontent amongst the Indians.
Background- Rising nationalism; Growing influence of the Home
Rule Leagues, The First World War and the growth of revolutionary activities all
these force the British Government to take some conciliatory measures towards
meeting the demands of the Indian nationalists.
On July 12, 1917, Montague announced before the House of
Common that the nature of the system by which India was governed was ‘too anti-diluvian’
to be effective and that the Indians should be giving avenues for participating
in the governance of their country in both, Councils and Executive.
Montague on August 20, 1917 announced-before the British
Cabinet that the British should take measures for “increasing association of
Indians in every branch of the administration and the gradual development, of
self-governing institutions with a view to the progressive realization of
responsible government in India as an integral part of the British Empire.” This
was hailed as the ‘historic pronouncement’ and August Declaration. Indians
mainly the moderates hailed it as “the Magna Carta of India.”
Montague visited India in November 1917 to ascertain views of
different politicalised groups and a report was prepared in 1918 on the basis of
which the Government India Act of -1919 was announced.
Set up dyarchy or Double-Government in Provinces. The
‘reserved departments’ which had areas related with law enforcements
justice, police and revenue were under the control of the Executive Council
which was responsible to the Government of India and the Parliament. The
‘transferred department’ included relatively inconsequential areas like
education, public health, public works, etc were given to Indian ministers
who were responsible to provincial Legislative Councils.
The Governor was to preside over both the wings-.of the
Executive and he could veto on the suggestions and steps taken by the Indian
A second Indian was to be added to the Governor-General’s
Executive Council which was responsible to the Parliament.
Set up a bicameral System at Centre. The Legislature at
the Centre was to have two houses. The Lower House or Legislative Assembly
with 100 elected and 44 nominated members for a period of 5 years. The Upper
House or the Legislative Council with 33 elected and 27 nominated members.
The Central Executive continued to have more powers and
was responsible only to the British Parliament. The Central Legislature
though had powers but it had no control over the Central Executive.
Separate electorates were extended Sikhs in the Punjab
and non-Brahmins in the South.
The control of the Governor-General over the finances was
In spite of the extension of the powers of the
Legislature no bill could be passed without the consent of the
Governor-General and he could enact a Bill without the consent of the
While the broadening of the electorate to five and a half
million was-a positive .step majority of the new electorate were illiterate
to know the political workings of the Imperial Legislature.
The Montgue-Chelmsford Report belied the expectations of the
Indian nationalists and it fell far short of their demands and expectations. Two
of its most serious defects were, that first the legislature had virtually no
control over the Governor-General and his Executive Council and secondly the
system of dyarchy in the provinces was very defective. This Act virtually threw
the Moderates in the Congress into the background, because they not only
welcomed the Act, but were also keen on co-operating with the Government in
implementing the Act. But the Extremists were thoroughly disappointed with the
Act and favoured its total rejection.
This difference of opinion ultimately led to the final
decline of the Moderate. In a special session of the INC held in Bombay (August
1918) the Congress reiterated the demand for self government and condemned the
Montague Chelmsford Reforms as inadequate disappointing and unsatisfactory. The
Moderate leaders, in view of the known views of the Extremists, boycotted the
Congress session. Most of the Moderates leaving the Congress later founded the
Indian Liberal Federation and came to be known as Liberals. Under the rising
tide of nationalism, the gradual decline of the Moderates was in any case
Go Back To Main Page