Indian Councils Act 1909 (Morley-Minto Reforms) – UPSC

The Indian Councils Act 1909, commonly known as Morley-Minto Reforms, was passed by the British Parliament, which introduced a few reforms in the legislative councils and increased the involvement of Indians in the governance of British India to a limited extent. This Act, also called Morley-Minto or Minto-Morley Reforms, was named after the Secretary of State for India Lord John Morely and the Viceroy of India Lord Minto. The 1909 Act amended the Indian Councils Acts of 1861 and 1892.

Provisions of the Indian Councils Act 1909

Expansion of Legislative Councils

  • The Indian Councils Act 1909 considerably increased the size of both the Central and Provincial Legislative Councils.
  • The Act raised the number of members in the Central (or Imperial) Legislative Council from 16 to 60 members.
  • The number of members in the provincial legislative councils was not uniform.
    • Legislative Councils of Bengal, Madras, Bombay, and United Provinces have 50 members each.
    • There were 30 members in each of the Legislative Councils of Punjab, Burma, and Assam.

Official majority in the Legislative Councils

The 1909 Indian Councils Act retained the official majority in the Central Legislative Council due to the possible need for the Viceroy to legislate for any province.

However, the Act allowed the provincial legislative councils to have a non-official majority.

Legislative Councils to have four categories of members

  • The Central Legislative Council and provincial legislative councils were to have four categories of members as follow:
    • Ex-officio members: Governor-General and members of the Executive Council.
    • Nominated official members: Government officials who were nominated by the Governor-General.
    • Nominated non-official members: The members nominated by the Governor-General but were not government officials.
    • Elected members: elected by various groups of Indians.

Introduced elections to the legislative councils

  • Minto-Morley Reforms also introduced the elections to the legislative councils.
  • The elected members in the legislative councils were elected indirectly. The Local bodies, via an electoral college, elected the members of Provincial Legislative Councils. These members would elect the members of the Central Legislative Council.
  • The elected members were from the local bodies, the chambers of commerce, universities, trade organizations, and landlords.
  • The Indian Councils Act 1909 laid out the separate representation of presidency corporations, chambers of commerce, trade communities, universities, and zamindars.

Included Indians in the Executive Council of Viceroy

  • The Indian Councils Act 1909, for the first time, provided for the association of Indians with the executive council of Viceroy and Governors.
  • Under the Morley-Minto Reforms, Lord Minto appointed Satyendra Prasad Sinha in the Governor-General Executive Council as the law member. Therefore, S. P. Sinha became the first Indian to join the Viceroy’s Executive Council.
  • The other two Indians who became the first Indians to be nominated as members of the Secretary of State’s Council of India and got appointed in the Indian Council in London were: Krishna Govinda Gupta and Syed Hussain Bilgrami.

Enlarged the functions of the Legislative Councils

  • The 1909 Indian Councils Act also enlarged the deliberate functions of the legislative councils at both the Central and Provincial levels.
  • The members of the legislative councils could discuss the budget and move resolutions on the budgets.
  • They could discuss matters of public interest. The members were also allowed to ask supplementary questions.

Accept the concept of Separate Electorate

  • The most notorious provision of the Indian Councils Act of 1909 was the introduction of a separate electorate college for Muslims.
  • The 1909 Act introduced a system of communal representation for Muslims by accepting the concept of a ‘separate electorate’ for them. Under this, the Muslim members were to be elected only by the Muslim voters.
  • Therefore, the Indian Councils Act 1909 legalized communalism.
  • Governor-General Lord Minto came to be known as the Father of Communal Electorate.

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