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Chapter 2 - IMPORTANT ACTS - that lead to The Constitution

The Company Rule (1773-1858)

1. Regulating Act of 1773

(a) it was the first step taken by the British Government to control and regulate the affairs of the East India Company in India
(b) it recognised, for the first time, the political and administrative functions of the Company
(c) it laid the foundations of central administration in India.

Features of the Act - 
  • It provided for the establishment of a Supreme Court at Calcutta (1774) comprising one chief justice and three other judges.
  • It designated the Governor of Bengal as the ‘Governor-General of Bengal’ and created an Executive Council of four members to assist him. The first such Governor-General was Lord Warren Hastings.

2. Pitt’s India Act of 1784

In a bid to rectify the defects of the Regulating Act of 1773

Features of the Act -
  • The Company’s territories in India were for the first time called the ‘British possessions in India’
  • The British Government was given the supreme control over Company’s affairs and its administration in India.
  • Court of Directors - to manage the commercial affairs
  • Board of Control - to manage the political affairs

3. Charter Act of 1813

Features of the Act - 
  • One lakh Rupees alloted for English education
  • East India company can now only trade in Tea with China

4. Charter Act of 1833

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

Features of the Act - 
  • It made the Governor-General of Bengal as the Governor-General of India. Lord William Bentick was the first governor-general of India.
  • The laws made under the previous acts were called as Regulations while laws made under this act were called as Acts.
  • Govt services open for Indian people.
  • End of Company's trade even in Tea.
  • It ended the activities of the East India Company as a commercial body, which became a purely administrative body. It provided that the company’s territories in India were held by it ‘in trust for His Majesty, His heirs and successors’.

5. Charter Act of 1853

Features of the Act - 
  • It separated, for the first time, the legislative and executive functions of the Governor- General’s council. It provided for addition of six new members called legislative councillors to the council.
  • It introduced an open competition system of selection and recruitment of civil servants also for Indians. Accordingly, the Macaulay Committee (the Committee on the Indian Civil Service) was appointed in 1854.
  • 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.

The Crown Rule (1858–1947)

6. Government of India Act of 1858

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.

Features of the Act - 

  • It changed the designation of the Governor-General of India to that of Viceroy of 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.
  • It created a new office, Secretary of State for India, vested with complete authority and control over Indian administration.
  • It established a 15-member Council of India to assist the secretary of state for India. The council was an advisory body. The secretary of state was made the chairman of the council.

7. Indian Councils Act of 1861

Features of the Act - 
  • It provided that the viceroy should nominate some Indians as non-official members of his expanded council. In 1862, Lord Canning, the then viceroy, nominated three Indians to his legislative council—the Raja of Benaras, the Maharaja of Patiala and Sir Dinkar Rao.
  • It also provided for the establishment of new legislative councils for Bengal, North-Western Frontier Province (NWFP) and Punjab, which were established in 1862, 1866 and 1897 respectively.
  • It gave a recognition to the ‘portfolio’ system, introduced by Lord Canning in 1859.
  • It empowered the Viceroy to issue ordinances, without the concurrence of the legislative council, during an emergency. The life of such an ordinance was six months.

8. Indian Councils Act of 1909 (Morley-Minto Reform)

Lord Morley was the then Secretary of State for India and Lord Minto was the then Viceroy of India

Features of the Act - 
  • It introduced a system of communal representation for Muslims by accepting the concept of ‘separate electorate’. Under this, the Muslim members were to be elected only by Muslim voters. Lord Minto came to be known as the Father of Communal Electorate.
  • It provided (for the first time) for the association of Indians with the executive Councils of the Viceroy and Governors. Satyendra Prasad Sinha became the first Indian to join the Viceroy’s Executive Council. He was appointed as the law member.
  • The number of members in the Central Legislative Council was raised from 16 to 60.

9. Government of India Act of 1919 (Montagu-Chelmsford Reform)

Montagu was the Secretary of State for India and Lord Chelmsford was the Viceroy of India.

Features of the Act - 
  • It extended the principle of communal representation by providing separate electorates for Sikhs, Indian Christians, Anglo-Indians and Europeans.
  • It divided the provincial subjects into two parts—transferred and reserved. The transferred subjects were to be administered by the governor with the aid of ministers responsible to the legislative Council. The reserved subjects, on the other hand, were to be administered by the governor and his executive council without being responsible to the legislative Council. This dual scheme of governance was known as ‘dyarchy’ (Greek word)
  • It introduced, for the first time, bicameralism and direct elections in the country. Thus, the Indian Legislative Council was replaced by a bicameral legislature consisting of an Upper House (Council of State) and a Lower House (Legislative Assembly). The majority of mebers of both the Houses were chosen by direct election.
  • It created a new office of the High Commissioner for India in London and transferred to him some of the functions hitherto performed by the Secretary of State for India.
  • It provided for the establishment of a public service commission. Hence, a Central Public Service Commission was set up in 1926 for recruiting civil servants
10. Government of India Act of 1935 - 
  • The Act marked a second milestone towards a completely responsible government in India. It was a lengthy and detailed document having 321 Sections and 10 Schedules.
Features of the Act - 
  • The Act divided the powers between the Centre and units in terms of three lists—Federal List (for Centre, with 59 items), Provincial List (for provinces, with 54 items) and the Concurrent List (for both, with 36 items). Residuary powers were given to the Viceroy.
  • It abolished dyarchy in the provinces and introduced ‘provincial autonomy’ in its place. The provinces were allowed to act as autonomous units of administration in their defined spheres.
  • It further extended the principle of communal representation by providing separate electorates for depressed classes (scheduled castes), women and labour (workers).
  • It provided for the establishment of a Federal Court, which was set up in 1937.
  • It provided for the establishment of a Reserve Bank of India to control the currency and credit of the country.

11. Indian Independence Act of 1947

On February 20, 1947, the British Prime Minister Clement Atlee declared that the British rule in India would end by June 30,1948; after which the power would be transferred to responsible Indian hands. This announcement was followed by the agitation by the Muslim League demanding partition of the country. Again on June 3, 1947, the British Government made it clear that any Constitution framed by the Constituent Assembly of India (formed in 1946) cannot apply to those parts of the country which were unwilling to accept it. On the same day (June 3, 1947), Lord Mountbatten, the viceroy of India, put forth the partition plan, known as the Mountbatten Plan. The plan was accepted by the Congress and the Muslim League. Immediate effect was given to the plan by enacting the Indian Independence Act (1947).

Features of the Act - 
  • It ended the British rule in India and declared India as an independent and sovereign state from August 15,1947.
  • It provided for the partition of India and creation of two independent dominions of India and Pakistan with the right to secede from the British Commonwealth.
  • It abolished the office of the secretary of state for India and transferred his functions to the secretary of state for Commonwealth Affairs.
  • It granted freedom to the Indian princely states either to join the Dominion of India or Dominion of Pakistan or to remain independent.

At the stroke of midnight of 14–15 August, 1947, the British rule came to an end and power was transferred to the two new independent Dominions of India and Pakistan. Lord Mountbatten became the first governor-general of the new Dominion of India. 
He swore in Jawaharlal Nehru as the first prime minister of independent India. The Constituent Assembly of India formed in 1946 became the Parliament of the Indian Dominion.


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