Act of 1919 (Montagu-Chlemsford Reforms)

Edwin Montagu, Secretary of State for India visited India in November to review the situation under Lord Chelmsford’s Government. After an interview with Jinnah, Montagu expressed his opinion and found Jinnah.

“…Perfectly mannered, impressive looking, armed to the teeth with the dialects… Chelmsford tried to argue with him, and was tied up into knots. Jinnah is a very clever man and it is of course an outrage that such a man should have no chance of running the affairs of his own country.”

The act of 1919 came into force on January 1, 1921. The reforms introduced in the act were based mainly on the proposals of the Montagu-Chelmsford report published on July 8, 1918. The act substituted the Central Legislative Council by a legislature of two houses, which were the Indian Legislative Assembly and the Council of States. The onus of the power rested with the Governor General who could legislate and impose taxes under his power to certify the bills. The Governor General’s Executive Council was still answerable only to the Secretary of State but the composition of the Council that was previously six British and an Indian member was now three Indian and four British. Communal representation was granted to the minorities and Muslims were given separate electorates as agreed upon in the Lucknow Pact. One of the most important feature of this act was the introduction of the system of diarchy in the provinces. The ministers held office only to enjoy the comforts of the house and had little significant powers.

These reforms received a mixed reaction in India. Jinnah was one of the first to comment on 23rd July 1918. He talked about how different the reforms were from those decided by the Congress and the Muslim League he did not reject them despite the fact that he was not entirely satisfied with them. He was flexible about his reaction to the reforms provided that the powers rested in the government were temporary. On 18th of July of the same year the Rowlatt Act was passed which included three High Court judges would preside over a special court, which could record evidence, which was not permitted under the Indian Evidence Act. The provincial government was permitted to warrant and detain anyone to stop from any particular act. The Quaid was against that Bill on the ground that it was against the law of justice that any man shall be denied his rights without a judicial trial. He sent a letter to the Viceroy in which he resigned from the Imperial Legislative Council,and said:

“The passing of the Rowlatt Bill…has severely shaken the trust reposed by them in British justice.”

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