Montague-chelmsford Reforms

Montague-chelmsford Reforms (History)

Article Upload Date: 2018,Jan 26

During the first world war(1914-1918), it was inconceivable that any major political reform of the British Indian empire would be contemplated but soon afterwards the momentum accelarated. Lord Chelmsford was the viceroy by the end of the war and Lord Montague was the secretary of State for India. After some discussions, the two presented their package of reforms. This report was isgnificant as it was the first time that an official British document mentioned the possibility of slf-rule by the Indians in all internal matters.

Title Description
Type: Pre-Partition History
In English: Montague-Chelmsford reforms
In Urdu: مونٹگیو-چیلمسفورڈ اصلاحات
Location: British india
Proposed By: Lord Chelmsford and Montague
Drafted By: British Government
Appreciated By: none
Disregarded By: Muslim League and Congress
Presented in: After 1st world war
Importance: It was the first time that an official British document mentioned the possibility of self rule by the Indians in all internal matters


A greater list of provincial powers was made so as to allow the provinces to form the possible future basis of an all-Indian federation.
  • Official majorities were abolished and replaced with elected ones and the central legislature was divided into two houses, a 'bicamral' structure.
  • The Legislative assembly, previously known as the Legislative Council, was to have 145 members, of which 103 were elected, with a life of three years. Of 
        the 103 elected seats in the Legislative Assembly, 32 were reserved for Muslims.
  • Seperate electorates were not only kept for the Muslims but were also extended to the Sikhs.
  • The Council of State was to have 60 members, of whic 33 were elected.
  • The Central administration was to retain control of income tax, railways and salt but land tax, excise and irrigation were to be given to the provinces.
  • The viceroy could enact or pass any bill he chose if he decided that an Act was necessory for the safety and tranquillity of Inida. 
  • The Executive Council was still wholly nominated, although it now has three Indian members out of six.

Principle of Diarchy

Lord Chelmsford

Lord Chelmsford

The provincial governors, apointed by the viceroy, also had sweeping powers, particularly in the case of law and order. A system of ' Diarchy' was introduced for the provincial governments. This was a list of ' reserved' and 'transferred' areas, in which there was to be a division of powers between the governor with his Executive Councils and the Provincial Legislature, from which ministers were drawn. 'Transferred' subjects were to be under the control of ministers and 'reserved' subjects were retained by the governors and Executive Councils. The latter had control over the department of education, agriculture, public health and local government. 

Power reatained with governor

The governor still retained vast powers as he kept not only reserved subjects under his control to be administered by executive concillors nominated by himslef, but even transferred subjects were run by ministeres chosen by him from the Legislative Council.

Princes council

A Council of Princes was established, presided over by the viceroy, with 108 members. it was to discuss maters of state but had no powers at all and major states such as Hyderabad did not even bother to join.


Montague-ford reforms

Montague-ford reforms

These reforms disappointed the Muslims league and Congress Party, as they had both hoped for more substantial concessions. The central government had reserved sweeping powers for itself under the principle of diarchy, including the right of the governor to dismiss the Provincial Assemblies under certain conditions. This meant that the British had a tight grip on local bodies and there were only minor concessions. The qualifications required for voting were relaxed so as to allow more voters in the next election but the new list was still only 5.5 million voters out of a population of 250 million. 

Rowlatt Act 1919

The feeling of resentment was compounded when the British passed the infamous Rowlatt Act in 1919 which was seen as a classic example of the ' carrot and stick' tactic.

Purpose of this act

The Montague-Chelmsford reforms were held out as an offer to the political parties as concessions if they accepted the right of the British to remain in charge. The Rawlatt act was there to deal with those who did not.


Justice Rowlatt had made recommendations in order to deal with the increasingly volatile situations in the sub-continent and these were accepted by the viceroy.
  • The Rowlatt Act included the rigt of arrest without a warrant
  • Detention without bail
  • It could also dictate people to live where dictated by the provincial government.


A storm broke out over the details of the plans:
  • Muhammad Ali Jinnah resigned from the Imperial Legislative Council in protest.
  • In the wake of the popular discontent, the Britis decided to ban some publications and public meetings. 
  • The Punjab, in particular, was especially active and it was in Amritsar that the Rowlatt Act was to have the most impact.

Jallianwala Bagh Massacre

Mr Montague

Mr Montague

A meeting which had been organized was banned by the British but the organizers, Sikhs, Muslims and Hindus, decided to go ahead with it anyway as a show of strength. an estimated crowd of 20,000 showed up in Amritsar for a peaceful demonstration at a park named Jallianwala Bagh. A British officer named General Dyer ordered all exits to be sealed off and for soldiers to open fire without warning on unarmd civillians. Around 400 poeple were killed in what was known Jallianwala Bagh Massacre. In the ensuing voilance. another 1000 people were killed in disturbances all over the sub-continent.  [1] Mont-ford

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