The Indian Councils Act 1909 (9 Edw. 7 c. 4), commonly known as the Morley-Minto Reforms (or as the Minto-Morley Reforms), was an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom that brought about a limited increase in the involvement of Indians in the governance of British India.
John Morley, the Liberal Secretary of State for India, and the Conservative Viceroy of India, Gilbert Elliot-Murray-Kynynmound, 4th Earl of Minto, believed that cracking down on the uprising in Bengal was necessary but not sufficient for restoring stability to the British Raj after Lord Curzon's partitioning of Bengal. They believed that a dramatic step was required to reassure loyal elements of the Indian upper classes and the growing Westernised section of the population.
They produced the Indian Councils Act of 1909 (Morley-Minto Reforms). They did not go any significant distance toward meeting the Indian National Congress demand for 'the system of government obtaining in Self-Governing British Colonies'.
The Act was important for the following reasons:It effectively legitimised the election of Indians to the various legislative councils in India for the first time. Earlier, only a limited number of Indians were appointed to legislative councils. The majorities of the councils remained British government appointments. Moreover, the electorate was limited to specific classes of Indian nationals.
The introduction of the electoral principle laid the groundwork for a parliamentary system even if this was contrary to the intent of Morley, as stated by Burke and Quraishi:
“To Lord Curzon's apprehension that the new Councils could become 'parliamentary bodies in miniature', Morley vehemently replied that, 'if it could be said that this chapter of reforms led directly or indirectly to the establishment of a parliamentary system in India, I for one would have nothing at all to do with it'. But he had already confessed in a letter to Minto in June 1906 that while it was inconceivable to adapt English political institutions to the 'nations who inhabit India.The spirit of English institutions is a different thing and it is a thing that we cannot escape, even if we wished... because the British constituencies are the masters, and they will assuredly insist... all parties alike... on the spirit of their own political system being applied to India.' He never got down to explaining how the spirit of the British system of government could be achieved without its body.”To divide the Hindu-Muslim unity, with the help of some Pro-British Muslim leaders, the British conceded the so-called demand of Muslim leaders for separate electorates. The Act of 1909 stipulated that in councils and in the imperial legislature, for the number of reserved seats to be in excess of their relative population (25 percent of the Indian population), and that only Muslims should vote for candidates for the Muslim seats ('separate electorates').
The concessions were a constant source of strife from 1909 to 1947. British statesmen generally considered reserved seats as regrettable in that they encouraged communal extremism, as Muslim candidates could not appeal for Hindu votes and vice versa. As more power was shifted from the British to Indian politicians in 1919, 1935 and afterward, Muslims were ever more determined to hold on to or even expand the reserved seats and their weightage. However, Hindu politicians repeatedly tried to eliminate reserved seats, as they considered them to be both undemocratic and hindering the development of a shared Hindu-Muslim Indian national feeling.
In 1906, Morley announced in the British parliament that his government wanted to introduce new reforms for India in which the locals were to be given more powers in legislative affairs. Thus, a series of correspondences started between him and Lord Minto, the Governor General of India. A committee was appointed by the Government of India to propose a scheme of reforms. The committee submitted its report, and after the approval of Minto and Morley, the Act of 1909 was passed by the British parliament, commonly known as the Morley-Minto Reforms.
The Act amended the Indian Councils Act 1861 and the Indian Councils Act 1892:
1. The members of the Legislative Councils, both in the centre and in the provinces, were to be of four categories: ex officio members (Governor General and the members of their Executive Councils), nominated official members (those nominated by the Governor General and were government officials), nominated non-official members (nominated by the Governor General but were not government officials) and elected members (elected by different categories of Indian people).
2. The maximum number of nominated and elected members of the Legislative Council at the Center was increased from 16 to 69, excluding ex officio members.
3. The maximum number of nominated and elected members of the provincial legislative councils, under a governor or lieutenant governor, was also increased. It was fixed as 50 in Bengal, Bombay, Madras, United Provinces, and Eastern Bengal and Assam, and 30 in Punjab, Burma, and any lieutenant-governor province created thereafter. Legislative councils were not created for provinces under a chief commissioner.
4. The right of separate electorate was given to the Muslims.
5. Official members were to form the majority but in provinces, nonofficial members would be in majority.
6. The members of the Legislative Councils were permitted to discuss budgets, suggest amendments and even vote on them except items that were included as non-vote items. They were also entitled to ask supplementary questions during the legislative proceedings.
7. The Secretary of State for India was empowered to increase the number of the Executive Councils of Madras and Bombay from two to four.
8. Two Indians were nominated to the Council of the Secretary of State for Indian Affairs.
9. The Governor-General was empowered to nominate one Indian member to his Executive Council.
The Governor-General, with the approval of the Secretary of State for India, made regulations for how members of legislative councils were nominated or elected nominated, and their qualifications. Regulations made in accordance with the Act could not be exercised until laid before both Houses of Parliament, and either house might object. By the regulation of November 1909, the councils were composed as follows:India: 68 total (69 with the Governor-General). Eight ex officio members (six members of the Governor-General's council and the Commander in Chief and Lieutenant-Governor of the province in which the council sits); 35 nominated members; and 25 elected members (12 from provincial councils and municipal committees, six from landholders in seven provinces, five from the Muslims of five provinces, and one each from the Chambers of Commerce of Calcutta and Bombay).
Madras: 48 total (49 with the Governor). Four ex officio members (three members of the cabinet, and the Advocate-General); 23 nominated members, of which not more than 16 were officials, and one representative of Indian commerce; two nominated experts, and 19 elected members (one elected by the Corporation of Madras, eight by municipalities and district boards, one by the University of Madras, four by landowners, one by the planting community, two by Muslims, one by the Madras Chamber of Commerce, and one by The Madras Trades Association).
Bombay: 48 total (49 with the Governor). Four ex officio members (there from the executive council, and the Advocate-General); 21 nominated members, of which not more than 14 were officials; two nominated experts; and 21 elected members (One elected by the Corporation of Bombay, four by municipalities, one by the University of Bombay, three by landholders, four by Muslims, one by the Bombay Chamber of Commerce, one by the Karachi Chamber of Commerce, one by the Millowners' associations of Bombay and Ahmadabad, and one by the Indian commercial community).
Bengal: 53 total (54 with the Lieutenant-Governor). Three ex officio members of the executive council; 22 nominated members, of which not more than 17 could be officials; two nominated experts; and 26 elected members (one elected by the Corporation of Calcutta, six by municipalities, six by district boards, one by the University of Calcutta, five by landholders, four by Muslims, two by the Bengal Chamber of Commerce, and one by the Calcutta Trades Association).
United Provinces: 48 total (49 with the Lieutenant-Governor). 26 nominated members, of which not more than 20 be officials, and one representing Indian commerce); two nominated experts; 20 elected members (four elected by the large municipalities in rotation, eight by district boards and smaller municipalities, one by Allahabad University, two by landowners, four by Muslims, and one by the Upper India Chamber of Commerce).
Eastern Bengal and Assam: 42 total (43 with the Lieutenant-Governor). 22 nominated members, of which not more than 17 be officials, and one representing Indian commerce; two nominated experts; 18 elected members (three elected by municipalities, five by district and local boards, two by landowners, four by Muslims, two by the tea interest, one by the jute interest, and one by the Commissioners of the Port of Chittagong).
Punjab: 26 total (27 with the Lieutenant-Governor). 19 nominated members, of which not more than 10 to be officials; two nominated experts; five elected members (one elected by the Punjab Chamber of Commerce, one by the University of the Punjab, three by municipal and cantonment committees). it
Burma: 17 total (18 with the Lieutenant-Governor). Six nominated officials; eight nominated non-officials (four to represent the Burmese population, two to represent the Indian and Chinese Communities, two to represent other interests); two nominated experts; and one member elected by the Burma Chamber of Commerce.
The Indian Councils Act served as the governance structure of India for a decade. It was modified Parliament relating to the governance of India into a single act of 135 sections and five schedules.
The Montague-Chelmsford Commission was formed in response to increasing demands in India for home rule, and issued a report in 1917. The Government of India Act 1919 enacted the legislative reforms recommended by the Montague-Chelmsford Report.