The British government appointed a Select Committee of 16 members ( from the House of Lords and House of Commons) to formulate the new constitution of India in 1935 after a sequence of political events including Nehru Report (1928), Fourteen Points of Jinnah (1929), and the Round Table Conferences (1930-33). The Committee consisted of 20 representatives of India and seven representatives from the Princely States of India while Lord Linlithgow headed the Committee.
The Committee drafted a bill on February 5, 1935 which was signed by the King of England in July 1935 after it was discussed for 13 days in the House of Lords and forty three days in the House of Commons. The salient features of the Act stated as under:
- It promised the Federation of India consisting of the provinces and the states both. The Federal part of the Act did not go into action on the grounds that the Princely States had not signed the Instrument of Accession. So the provincial part of the Act 1935 was enacted while the Central part ran under the Government of India Act 1919.
- The governor General was to remain the head of the Central administration with the full authorities of finance, administration, and legislation.
- Without the consent of the Governor General, no finance bill could be presented in the Central Legislature.
- The Federal Legislature was to comprise of the two Houses i.e. the Council of State and the Federal assembly.
- The Council of State would consist of 260 members out of which 156 would be elected from India while 104 would be nominated by the Princely States.
- The federal Assembly would consist of 375 members out of whom 250 would be elected by the British Indian Provinces in the respective Legislature and 125 members would be nominated by the Princely States.
- The Central Legislature could pass any bill but the final approval was by the hands of the Governor General who was to enjoy the power to frame any ordinance.
- The Act brought an end to the Indian council and the place was filled by a few advisors to assist the Secretary of State for India.
- The Secretary of State was not to interrupt the affairs being dealt with the Governor General.
- Autonomy was granted to the provinces in the subjects farmed out to them.
- Dyarchy in the provinces was to end in the provinces while it stayed sustained at the Center.
- Orissa and Sindh were made provinces.
- Like other provinces, reforms were introduced in NWFP.
- Separate electorate would continue as before.
- 1/3 representation of the Muslims was guaranteed in the Act.
- The Act promised the autonomous provincial governments in the eleven provinces under the ministries who would be responsible for legislature.
- The Reserve Bank of India was established.
- Aden and Burma were separated from India.
- In the Center, the Federal Court was established.
Both the Muslim League and Congress did not approve the Act as the main powers of defense, external relations, currency and exchange, and fiscal policy rested at the hands of the British. After independence the two dominions acted on the government of India Act 1935 as an ad hoc document with slight amendments but in 1935 they disapproved it.