. Just six months before the Montford Reforms were to be put into effect, two bills were introduced in the Imperial Legislative Council. One of them was dropped, but the other—an extension to the Defence of India Regulations Act 1915—was passed in March 1919. It was what was officially called the Anarchical and Revolutionary Crimes Act, but popularly known as the Rowlatt Act. It was based on the recommendations made in the previous year to the Imperial Legislative Council by the Rowlatt Commission, headed by the British judge, Sir Sidney Rowlatt, to investigate the ‘seditious conspiracy’ of the Indian people. (The committee had recommended that activists should be deported or imprisoned without trial for two years, and that even possession of seditious newspapers would be adequate evidence of guilt.) All the elected Indian members of the Imperial Legislative Council voted against the bill but they were in a minority and easily overruled by the official nominees. All the elected Indian members—who included Mohammed Ali Jinnah, Madan Mohan Malaviya and Mazhar Ul Haq – resigned in protest.
The act allowed political activists to be tried without juries or even imprisoned without trial. It allowed arrest of Indians without warrant on the mere suspicion of ‘treason’. Such suspects could be tried in secrecy without recourse to legal help. A special cell consisting of three high court judges was to try such suspects and there was no court of appeal above that panel. This panel could even accept evidence not acceptable under the Indian Evidences Act. The law of habeas corpus, the basis of civil liberty, was sought to be suspended. The object of the government was to replace the repressive provisions of the wartime Defence of India Act (1915) by a permanent law. So the wartime restrictions on freedom of speech and assembly were re-imposed in India.