Saturday, March 22, 2014

Morley-Minto Reform / Indian Council Act Of 1909

In 1905, Lord Minto succeeded Lord Curzon as the Viceroy and John  Morley was appointed as the Secretary of State for India in London.


Background to the Indian Council Act of 1909

  • Growing discontent amongst Indians and general dissatisfaction with the British government.

  • Increasing economic distress and recurring famines, and pestilences

  • Racial discrimination

  • Remember the outcry because of Lord Curzon’s policies

  • Politicisation of the public and the dissatisfaction with the Act of 1892

The Morley-Minto ReformSome positive changes in the governance were needed in face of the rising discontent if only to placate the grievances. The Morley-Minto Reforms were an attempt at conciliating the growing unrest of the Indians and the incessant demand for more Indian participation in the governance of the country.

Main Features

  • It increased the membership of non-officials in the Imperial and Provincial Legislative Councils.

  • The clause of the Indian Council Act of 1892 that sought to increase the number of non-officials was extended. Thus by 1910 more than 100 indirectly elected Indians assumed seats in the Councils.

  • While in the Provincial Legislature the non-official majority was allowed, at the centre the official majority was retained.

  • The Act provided for the appointment of an Indian to the Viceroy’s Executive Council and same provision was made for the Provincial Executive Councils.

  • The powers of the Legislature were extended. The members could raise questions and debate the budget. BUT they could not vote.

  • The members could introduce legislative proposals BUT could not enact laws.


  • It followed the promise made by Lord Minto during Simla Deputation for safeguarding the interests of the Muslims.

  • The Indian Council Act of 1909 alloted seats to the Muslims on the communal basis-INTTRODUCTION OF SEPARATE ELECTORATE- This established the Muslims as a ‘separate’ community.

  • Two more special privileges were given to the Muslims. The first was that the Muslims were given direct representation which was denied to other communities. Secondly, they were given the right of plural voting. This meant that in some provinces they voted in three places. This concession was denied to other minority communities.


  • The non-official member enjoyed no real powers. It was like they were given a boat but no oars to row! They could neither veto the budget nor enact laws. It was ineffective and unreal for all practical purposes.

  • The continuation of indirect election of non-official members helped to streamline the kind of Indians who could be elected. By means of indirect election the supports of the British could be elected while by and large the educated middle classes which were politically conscious and demanded real changes could be kept out.

  • There was widespread discontent amongst all Indians over the provision of separate electorate except by those who directly benefited from it. The nationalists and the extremists were not jubilant about it as they regarded it as a mere shadow without substance’. The initial enthusiasm of the moderates changed to disfavour on account of separate electorates.


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