Montague Chelmsford Reforms or the Government of India Act, 1919

On the recommendations of Edwin Montague and Lord Chelmsford (the Viceroy of India), the Government of India Act, 1919, or Montague Chelmsford Reforms was passed. 

Main Provisions of Montague Chelmsford Reforms

Central Government was made responsible to the British Parliament

  • The Secretary of State for India was to control affairs related to the Government of India.
  • The central legislature was to consist of two chambers—the Council of States and the Indian Legislative Assembly. The latter was given the power to vote.
  • The central legislature could make laws on any matter for the whole of India. It also had power over finance except over certain items of expenditure.
  • The Governor-General could summon, prorogue and dissolve the chambers.
  • The control of the Secretary of State over Indian affairs was reduced.
  • The number of Indians in the Council of the Viceroy was raised to three.
  • For the first time in India, provision was made to establish a Public Service Commission.

Provincial Legislative Councils

  • A Legislative Council was to be established consisting of elected and nominated members.
  • The term of the Council was to be of three years.

Dual Government or Dyarchy

  • The principle of dyarchy was introduced in the provinces. The subjects to be dealt with by the provinces were now divided into two parts—reserved subjects and transferrable subjects.
  • Reserved subjects such as finance, law, and order, irrigation, etc. were to be looked after by the Governor with the help of his Executive Council.
  • Transferable subjects such as public health, education, and agriculture were to be looked after by the Governor with the help of the Council of Ministers chosen by him. These members were to be responsible both to the Governor and the Legislature. The Governor could overrule his ministers and had complete control over finances.


  • The system of indirect election was replaced with direct election.
  • Communal franchise and separate electorates were introduced for Sikhs, Europeans, and Anglo Indians.

Limitations Montague Chelmsford Reforms or the Government of India Act, 1919

  • The subjects were divided irrationally under the system of dyarchy. For example, while agriculture was a transferable subject, land revenue and irrigation were made reserved subjects.
  • The loyalties of ministers and councilors were divided. While one was loyal to the Government, the other was responsible to the Indian electorate.
  • The ministers did not have vast powers. They were not given complete control over any subject. The Governor was the supreme authority. Ministers did not have adequate funds to carry out their functions. They had to depend on the Finance Minister. The latter did not have sympathy with the people of India as he represented the vested interests of the British government.

Congress declared reforms as inadequate and disappointing. However, it accepted the reforms to establish a responsible government in India.

Also, Read 8 Achievements of the Assertive Nationalists

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