Background of 1909 Act
Popularly known as the Minto-Morley Reforms, they took their name after
their official sponsors, Minto, the Governor-General and John Morley,
Secretary of State for India. In 1908, the British Parliament appointed a Royal
Commission on Decentralisation to inquire into relations between the
Government of India and the provinces and suggest ways and means to
simplify and improve them. More specifically, it was asked to suggest ‘how
the system of government could be better adapted both to meet the
requirements and promote the welfare of the different provinces.’ Later in the
year, on the basis of its recommendations a Bill was introduced in Parliament
which, in May 1909 emerged as the new scheme of constitutional reform.
Provisions of 1909 Act
Its authors claimed that the chief merit of the Act, lay in its provisions to
further enlarge the legislative councils and at the same time make them more
representative and effective. This was sought to be done under two main
heads—constitutional and functional. Constitutionally, the councils were now
bigger, their numbers doubled in some cases and more than doubled in
others. Thus, whereas the Indian Councils Act of 1892 had authorized only a
maximum of 16 additional members, that figure was now raised to 60. In
much the same manner, the number of additional members for the
Presidencies of Madras, Bombay and Bengal were raised, from 20 to 50.
    The proportion of official to non-official members in the Governor-
General’s Council was substantially reduced, the new figures were 36 to 32.
Of the latter 27 were to be elected and 5 nominated. In this way, the Council
continued to have the official majority. This was a deliberate policy. In the
Provinces, there was to be a non-official majority for the first time. In Bengal
there was even an elected majority,     outnumbering both the official as well as