Laws before India got Independence

Start music   Oct 20 2016 || 6:21 PM

Regulating Act of 1773

Important Features

  • The Governor of Bengal was designated as the ‘Governor-General of Bengal’ and an Executive Council of four members was constituted to assist him. Lord Warren Hastings was the first such Governor-General of British India
  • Governors of Bombay and Madras presidencies were made subordinate to the governor-general of Bengal.
  • Supreme Court at Calcutta (1774) was established comprising one chief justice and three other judges.
  • Prohibited the Company servants from engaging in any private trade or accepting presents or bribes from the ‘natives’.
  • It strengthened the control of the British Government over the Company by requiring the Court of Directors (governing the body of the Company) to report on its revenue, civil, and military affairs in India.


Pitt’s India Act of 1784

This act rectified the defects of the Regulating Act of 1773, the British Parliament passed the Amending Act of 1781, also known as the Act of Settlement. The next important act was the Pitt’s India Act2 of 1784.

Important features of the Act

  • Commercial and political functions of the company were cleared demarcated.
  • It established dual government by setting up board of control and board of directors. Board of Control was to manage the political affairs, Court of Directors to manage the commercial affairs.
  • It empowered the Board of Control to supervise and direct all operations of the civil and military government or revenues of the British possessions in India. This act is significant because, for the first time, the Company’s territories in India were called the ‘British possessions in India.


Charter Act of 1833

This Act was the final step towards centralization in British India.

Important features of the act.

  • Governor-General of Bengal was made Governor-General of India and vested in him all civil and military powers. Lord William Bentinck was the first governor-general of India.
  • Deprived the governor of Bombay and Madras of their legislative powers. The Governor General of India was given exclusive legislative powers for the entire British India. The laws made under the previous acts were called as Regulations while laws made under this act were called as Acts.
  • East India Company became a purely administrative body thus seceding its duty as a commercial body. It provided that the company’s territories in India were held by it in trust for His Majesty, His heirs and successors’.
  • It attempted to introduce a system of open competition for selection of civil servants, and stated that the Indians should not be debarred from holding any place, office, and employment under the Company. However, this provision was negated after opposition from the Court of Directors.


Charter Act of 1853

This was the last of the series of Charter Acts passed by the British Parliament between 1793 and 1853. It was a significant constitutional landmark.

Important Features of the act

  •  It separated the legislative and executive functions of the Governor General’s council. It provided for addition of six new members called legislative councilors to the council. In other words, it established a separate Governor-General’s legislative council which came to be known as the Indian (Central) Legislative Council. This legislative wing of the council functioned as a mini-Parliament, adopting the same procedures as the British Parliament.
  • It introduced an open competition system of selection and recruitment of civil servants. The covenanted civil service was thus thrown open to the Indians also.
  • It extended the Company’s rule and allowed it to retain the possession of Indian territories on trust for the British Crown. This was a clear indication that the Company’s rule could be terminated at any time the Parliament liked.
  • It introduced, for the first time, local representation in the Indian (Central) Legislative Council. Of the six new legislative members of the governor-general’s council, four members were appointed by the local (provincial) governments of Madras, Bombay, Bengal and Agra.


Government of India Act of 1858

This significant Act was enacted in the wake of the Revolt of 1857—also known as the First War of Independence or the ‘sepoy mutiny’. The act known as the Act for the Good Government of India, abolished the East India Company, and transferred the powers of government, territories and revenues to the British Crown.

Important features of the Act

  • It said India henceforth was to be governed by, and in the name of, Her Majesty.
  •  It changed the designation of the Governor-General of India to that of Viceroy of India. He (viceroy) was the direct representative of the British Crown in India. Lord Canning thus became the first Viceroy of India.
  •  It ended the system of double government by abolishing the Board of Control and Court of Directors.
  • Secretary of State for India was established, vested with complete authority and control over Indian administration. The secretary of state was a member of the British cabinet and was responsible ultimately to the British Parliament.
  •  A 15-member Council of India to assist the secretary of state was created. The council was an advisory body. The secretary of state was made the chairman of the council.

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