(Last Updated on : 10/04/2012)
The Indian Councils Act 1892 failed to meet the legitimate demands of the Congress. The continuing economic exploitation of the British rulers led the Indian extremists to raise their voice of protest. On the other hand the moderate leaders emphasized the constitutional and the systematic policy to protest. This created a discontent among the moderates and the extremist leaders after the enactment of the Indian Councils Act of 1892. Therefore there were several socio-economic convulsions prior to the enactments of the Indian Council Act of 1909.
In spite it had been declared, the educated Indians were not given due share in the Government services. This created a tremendous discontent among the educated natives. The Calcutta Corporation was completely made the house of the Europeans by reducing the total numbers of the Indian member by the infamous acts of 1899. A similar policy was also implemented for the Indian Universities. As a result the autonomy of the Indian Universities was curbed. In the year 1904, the Official Secret Act, greatly extended the scope of the term sedition. But the climax of the exploitation was reached when the infamous act of Partition of Bengal was declared in the years 1905. This act was considered as the attack in the solidified nationalism of the British.
There were other causes of discontent. Indians living in the foreign countries, especially in South Africa were subjected to humiliation and indignities. This created national resentments. Moreover in the closing years of the 19th century, it witnessed horrible famine dues to the economics exploitation of the British Government. The Indians Press made extreme criticism of the British Government. Moreover the growth and popularity of Extremism in the Indians political scenario, was a shattering blow to the prestige of the White men in the east. The Moderates and the Extremist leaders were divided in the houses of the Indian National Congress. This event was known as the Surat Split, which took place in the year 1907.
In the meantime another important development had taken place. When the Indian National Congress was growing stronger as the exponent of the demand for national freedom, the Muslim league was completely aloof from the nationalist currents. In such circumstances, the British government introduced its policy of "Divide and rule" in order to strengthen its position in India. The first official manifestation of this policy may be noticed in Lord Minto's reply to a deputation of Muslim leaders led by Aga Khan on October 1, 1906. He promised them not only separate communal representation but at the same time demanded their full support and service to the Empire.
The entire socio-political circumstances became opportune for introducing further reforms of Lord Morley. He was appointed as the Secretary of State in the liberal Cabinet. Both Lord Morley and Minto agreed to the facts that certain reforms were necessary for the further political advances. There was correspondence between the viceroy and the Secretary of State on the subject of further reforms. The secretary of State framed his proposals and subsequently a committee of the executive Council was formed. This Committee was entrusted with the charge to study the subject. The Governments of India sent a dispatch in England embodying its proposals. Later Morley sent the proposals of further reforms to the Local government for the purposes of public criticisms. In the lights of public criticisms, the bill was drafted. After the approval of the Cabinet, passed by the Parliament in February 1909, and become Indian Councils Act of 1909.
In August 1907, to Indians - K.G.Gupta, and Syed Hussain Bilgrami were made the members of the Secretary of State's India Council. In India, on 24 March 1909, Mr. Satyendra Sinha was appointed member of the viceroy's Executive Council.
The Indian Councils Acts of 1909, also known as the Morley Minto reforms in the years of 1909, by its provision, enlarged the size and their functions of the legislatures both at the center and Provinces
By the Morley-Minto reforms, the numbers of Additional members in the Central Legislature was raised at the maximum numbers of 60. The Legislature was thus consisted of 69 members, of which 37 were to be officials while the remaining 32 non-officials. Of the official, 9 were to be ex-officio members, namely the governor general, seven ordinary members (Executive Councilors) and one extraordinary member. The s remaining twenty-eight members were to be nominated by the Governors General. Of the 32 non-officials, 5 were to be nominated by the Governors general and the remaining 27 were to be elected. The Morley Minto Reforms introduced an electoral policy for the elected members. It was declared territorial representation did not suit India. The Act of 1909 also envisaged that the representation by classes and interests is the only practicable methods of embodying the elective principle in the constitution of Indians legislative Councils.
The membership of the legislative council at different provinces was somewhat different from that of the Center. There were 181 members in the Provincial legislative councils. The Act provided for non-official majorities in the provinces. Some of the non-officials were to be nominated by the governor and through these officials; an official control over was retained. The elected members in the Provincial Legislatures were to be returned by different constituencies.
By the Act of 1909 or the Morley Minto reforms, the functions of the legislative councils, both at the Center and the Provinces were enlarged, considerably. The Act had given the members right of discussion and asking supplementary questions. The member in charge was authorized to demands time, if he could not furnish information asked for on the spot. The Morley Minto reforms laid down detailed rules on the subjects of budgets in the Central Legislature. Members, though not were entitled with the powers of voting , yet they could move resolutions concerning additional grants and to the Local governments, any alteration in the taxation, son a new loans, which might have been proposed in the financial statement or the explanatory memorandum.
Rules were laid down concerning discussion matters of general public interests. According to the reforms adopted by Morley and Minto, members of the Legislative council could discuss this matter, move resolution on them, ands could also vote. However the President was empowered to disallows the whole or parts of the resolution without assigning any reason. According to the Act, the governments was not obliged to accept such resolutions , even if passed, whether concerning public interest or concerning financial system.
Apart from these there were certain provisions in the reform act of Morley Minto, under which the Members could not discuss certain subjects. The foreign relations of the government of India and its relation with the Indians princes, a matter under the adjudication the court of law, expenditure on railways, interests and debt etc could not be discussed by the members of the Legislative council.
The Morley Minto reforms of 1909 however could not provide any solution to the political problems of India. Narrow franchises, indirect elections , limited powers of the Legislative Councils etc dabbled the representative government established in India. the real power was vested in the office of the Government, and the councils were left with no functions but criticisms.
The Reform created new problem in the Indian politics. The introduction of Separate electorates for the Muslims created a political barrier. Dues to this barrier the Muslims were alienated from the rest of India and hence the government and hence the Muslim remain aloof from the currents of nationalism all over India. In such circumstances the others communities tried to establish their own individual interests. The Morley Minto Reforms did nothing but accentuated the communal difference in India.
The Morley Minto Reforms, incited the dissatisfactions of the s people with the system of Government. The people demanded for the responsible government, should be set up in the country. But all it ended with the benevolent despotism and extreme s oppression of the government. While introducing in the Parliament, Lord Morley declared in the unequivocal terms that he had no intention to set up a Parliamentary system of Governments in India. Moreover , when the Acts was implemented, it is created much confusion. While Parliamentary forms were introduced, no responsibility was conceded. This led to the irresponsible criticism of the Government. The Indian Leaders made the Legislature as the platform for denouncing the Government.
The system of election led by the Acts of 1909 was very indirect. The people elected the members of the local bodies, which elected members of the electoral college, which in turn elected the members of the provincial Legislatures. The members of the provincial legislature finally elected the members of the Central Legislature. In such complicated system of voting the people could not have the opportunity for political education.
The Reforms of 1909 granted influence to the common people rather than power. It left responsibility of the power of the government to one set of people, while rapidly transferred it to the other groups. The Morley Minto Reforms, led to the mutual antagonism between the Indian community ands the British government.