Division of the Functions of Government

Division of the Functions of Government in India

Division of the Functions of Government in the Report on Indian Constitutional Reforms by Edwin S. Montagu and Lord Chelmsford, 1918

238. It is time to show how we propose that the sphere of business to be made over to the control of the popular clement in the Government should be demarcated. We assumed in paragraphs 212 and 213 above that the entire field of provincial administration will be marked off from that of the Government of India. We assumed further that in each province certain definite subjects should be transferred for the purpose of administration by the ministers. All subjects not so transferred will be reserved to the hands of the Governor in Council. The list of transferred subjects will. of course vary in each province; indeed, it is by variation that our scheme will be adjusted to varying local conditions. It will also be susceptible of modification at subsequent stages. The determination of the list for each province will be, a matter for careful investigation, for which reason we have not attempted to undertake it now. We could only have done so if after settling the general principles on which the lists should be framed we had made a prolonged tour in India and had discussed with the government and people of each province the special conditions of its own case. This work should, we suggest, be entrusted to another special committee similar in composition to, but possibly smaller in size than, the one which we have already proposed to constitute for the purpose of dealing with franchises and constituencies. It may be said that such a task can be appropriately undertaken only when our main proposals are approved. We find it difficult, however, to believe that any transitional scheme can be devised which will dispense with the necessity for some such demarcation; and for this reason we should like to see the committee constituted as soon as possible. It should meet and confer with the other committee which is to deal with franchises, because the extent to which responsibility can be transferred is related to the nature and extent of the electorate which will be available in any particular province. The committee’s first business will be to consider what are the services to be appropriated to the provinces, all others remaining with the Government of India. We suggest that it will find that some matters are of wholly provincial concern, and that others are primarily provincial, but that in respect of them some statutory restrictions upon the discretion of provincial governments may be necessary. Other matters again may be provincial in character so far as administration goes, while there may be good reasons for keeping the right of legislation in respect of them in the hands of the Government of India. The list so compiled will define the corpus of the material to which our scheme, is to be applied.. In the second place the committee will consider which of the provincial subjects should be transferred; and what limitations must be placed upon the ministers’ complete control of them. Their guiding principle should be to include in the transferred list those departments which afford most opportunity for local knowledge and social service, those in which Indians have shown themselves to be keenly interested, those in which mistakes which may occur (though serious) would not be irremediable, and those which stand most in need of development. In pursuance of this principle we should not expect to find that departments primarily concerned with the maintenance of law and order were transferred. Nor should we expect the transfer of matters which vitally affect the well-being of the masses who may not be adequately represented in the new councils, such for example as questions of land revenue or tenant rights. As an illustration of the kind of matters which we think might be treated as provincial and those which might be regarded as transferred, we have presented two specimen lists in an appendix to this report. We know that our lists cannot be exhaustive; they will not be suitable to all provinces; they may not be exactly suitable to any province; but they will serve at all events to illustrate our intentions if not also as a starting point for the deliberations of the committee. Our lists are in the main mere categories of subjects. But we have mentioned by way of illustration some of the limitations which it will be necessary to impose or maintain. In dealing with each subject the powers of the provincial legislatures to alter Government of India Acts on that subject will have to be carefully considered. We have indicated in paragraph 240 below certain other reservations which seem to us necessary. On the publication of this report we should like to see the lists discussed in the provincial councils and considered by the provincial governments, so that the committee may have ready at hand considered criticisms upon the applicability of our suggestions to the circumstances of each particular province.

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