Sample Material of Our IAS Mains GS Online Coaching Programme
Subject: General Studies (Paper 2 - Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice and International relations)
Topic: Indian Constitution
HISTORICAL UNDERPINNINGS AND EVOLUTION
An Indian patriot Shri H.C. Mookerji had stated— For that reason, however the Indian people ought not to continue to be the victims of a selfish class legislation and class tyranny. Those of our countrymen who interest themselves in politics are preparing themselves for an agitation for the admission of native members into the Legislative Council. The idea, in the modesty of its aim, is incomplete. What we want is not the introduction of a small independent element in the existing Council, but an Indian Parliament.
THE INDIAN COUNCILS ACT, 1861
The Proclamation of 1858 was followed by the Indian Council Act, 1861 and later by the Indian Councils Act, 1892. These Acts laid down the constitution and powers of the Governor in Council and the Governor-General in Council. For the first time the British relaxed the rule and the Council shall consist exclusively of officials. The Act permitted it to include additional members (not less than 6 and not more than 12) nominated for 2 years and prescribed that not less than one-half of these would be non-official members. Such nonofficial members were not elected representatives of the people but were handpicked by the government. The function of the Council was restricted to making laws and regulations. No motion other than that relating to legislation could be introduced. Even for legislation, predominant powers were vested in the Governor-General. For all important Bills his prior sanction was required. He could veto a Bill or reserve it for the assent of the Crown. He could also legislate by Ordinance.
INDIAN COUNCILS ACT, 1892
The Indian Councils Act, 1892 increased the number of additional members (not less than 10 and not more than 16). The powers of the legislative Councils were increased. Rules framed under the Act allowed the members to ask questions (subject to restrictions) and to take part in the discussion on the budget.
MORLEY-MINTO REFORMS, 1906
The next Constitutional Act was the Indian Councils Act, 1909. At that time the Secretary of State for India was Lord Morley and the Governor-General of India was Lord Minto. The Act implemented the reforms proposed by them. The size of the Council was enlarged. The number of non-official additional members was increased to 24 but the official majority continued. Their functions were widened. Right to ask for division on the budget was conceded. A member putting a question could ask a supplementary also. The most pernicious change introduced by this Act was the injection of separate electorates and reservation of seats for Muslims, which ultimately resulted in partition of India.
INDIAN COUNCILS ACT, 1909
The change made by the Act of 1909 may be summarized:
1. It increased the size of the Central as well as Provincial Councils.
2. The legislative councils had now three types of members, (a) Members of the executive council of the Viceroy or the Governor (official members), (b) nominated non-official members, (c) elected representatives of the people.
3. It recognized the principle of elections.
4. Election was not by territorial constituencies. It was representation by class and interests, corporate bodies and associations. All elections were indirect.
5. The functions of the Councils were increased. The members were given the right to discuss and to put supplementary questions.
6. Certain matters could not be discussed e.g. foreign relations, relations with Indian princes, matters which were sub judice etc
Morley was clear in his mind that the Act of 1909 was not a step towards the goal of Parliamentary democracy. He made himself amply clear by stating, -“ If I were attempting to set up a Parliamentary system in India, or if it could be said that this chapter of reforms led directly or necessarily up to the establishment of a Parliamentary system in India. I, for one would have nothing at all to do with it. If my existence, either officially or corporeally, were prolonged twenty times longer than either of them is likely to be, a Parliamentary system in India is not the goal for which I for one moment would aspire.”
Even a moderate like Gopal Krishna Gokhale reacted to the Act of 1909 by saying that: “There is no doubt that except in Mohammedan circles the Regulations have caused very great dissatisfaction throughout the country.”