The Government of India Act of 1919, made many far-reaching changes in the administration of India.
The Act provided for a bicameral legislature consisting of two houses, viz., the Central Legislative Assembly and the Council of State (instead of Imperial Council in the Centre consisting of one House that existed formerly).
The Central Legislative Assembly consisted of 145 members. Among them 105 were elected and the rest were nominated.
Of the nominated members 25 were officials and the rest non-officials. Out of the 105 elected members 53 were elected by the general constituencies and 52 by communal constituencies.
The Council of State consisted of 60 members. Among them 34 were elected and 25 were nominated by the Governor-General.
The term of the Central Legislative Assembly was 3 years and that of the Council of State was 5 years.
The first speaker of the Assembly was nominated by the Government. Later on the speakers were elected by the members of the Assembly.
Indirect election was recommended to the Central Assembly. But later it was changed to direct elections for both Houses of the Central Legislature.
Franchise was restricted. The total number of voters for the Central Assembly was about 9,09,874 and for the Council of State was about 17,364 in 1920. The Governor-General was given the power to summon, prorogue and dissolve the chambers.
Extensive powers were given to the Central Legislature. It could make laws for the whole of British India.
It would also repeal or amend laws for the time being in British India. Members of the Central Legislature (Both Houses) were given the right of moving resolutions, making adjournment motions and freedom of speech.
They were also given the right of putting questions and supplementary questions. As regards the Central Budget, the Government submitted proposals for the appropriation in the form of Demands for Grant to the vote of the Indian Legislative Assembly.
Further, the Act of 1919, provided for two Lists of subjects. They were Central List and Provincial List.
The Central subject included Defence, Foreign and Political Relations, Public Debts, Tariffs and Customs, Posts and Telegraphs, Currency and Coinage, Communications, Commerce and Shipping, Civil and Criminal Law Procedure etc.
The Provincial subjects included Local Self-Government, Public Health and Sanitation, Education, Public Works, Water Supplies and Irrigation, Land Revenue Administration, Agriculture, Forests, Law and Order etc.
Apart from this the strength of Provincial Legislative Council was increased. Its term was ordinarily 3 years.
It could not be dissolved earlier by the Governor. The members could reject the budget. But the Governor could restore it, if necessary.
Dyarchy was introduced in the Provinces. There were two kinds of Subjects in the provinces. They were Transferred and Reserved Subjects.
The Transferred subjects were administered by the Governor with the help of his ministers.
They were Local Self-Government, Public Health, Education of Indians, Public Works, Co-operative Societies, Excise, and Development of Industries.
The Reserved subjects were administered by the Governor with the help of the Executive. They were Administration of Justice, Police, Irrigation and Canals, Drainage and Embankments, Water Storage and Water Power, Land Revenue Administration, Land Improvement and Agricultural Loans, Famine Relief, Control of Newspaper, Books and Printing Presses, Prisons and Reformatories, Borrowing money on the credit of the Province, Factory inspection, Housing etc.
The Provincial Governor was not a constitutional head. He was given many special responsibilities. For the discharge of his responsibilities, he was authorized to overrule his ministers and the members of the Executive Council, if necessary.
Apart from this the Act provided that in future the Secretary of State was to be paid out of the British revenues. A High Commissioner for India was to be appointed by the Government of India.
He acted as the agent of the Governor-General in Council. Some of the functions of the Secretary of State for India were taken away from him and given to the Commissioner.
The Secretary of State possessed and exercised the power of superintendence, direction and control over the affairs of India. It reiterated that the Governor-General had to carry out the orders of the Secretary of State.