- India is a parliamentary democracy in which the executive is accountable to the legislature. Many aspects of Indian politics and the Constitution are inherited from the British administration system. The colonial rulers devised and implemented methods for managing affairs in India. In 1765, the East India Company, which arrived in India in 1600, gained significant administrative power (in the aftermath of the Battle of Buxar when the British got revenue and civil justice rights for Bengal, Bihar and Odisha).
- Since then, the trading company has consolidated its power in such a way that it has reached every nook and cranny of our country. Previously, ancient and mediaeval empires such as the Maurya, Gupta, and Mughal empires had this reach and consolidation of administrative power. The British’s success in India was primarily due to the administrative system they established. This section will look at various acts that allowed the British to maintain their empire. Furthermore, emphasis will be placed on how these acts laid the groundwork for various provisions in our constitution.
The company rule (1773-1858)
- Various acts were passed by the British parliament during this time period to control and supervise the activities of the East India Company (EIC). Following the Sepoy Mutiny in 1858, the company’s rule came to an end. Since then, the British Parliament has been in charge of administering India.
1773 Regulating Act
- The Governor of Bengal was designated as the ‘Governor-General of Bengal.’
- It established a four-member executive council (not to be confused with the legislative council) to assist the governor-general of Bengal. Warren Hastings was the first of these generals.
- It subordinated the governors of the Madras and Mumbai presidencies to the governor-general of Bengal (centralizing tendency started from this act)
- Calcutta was the site of the establishment of the Supreme Court (1774). It consisted of one chief justice and three other judges.
- Employees of the company were prohibited from engaging in private trade or accepting bribes, and the EIC Court of Directors was required to report on revenue, civil, and military affairs in India.
- The British government took the first step toward controlling and regulating the affairs of EIC.
- For the first time, the company’s political and administrative functions have been recognised.
- In India, It laid the groundwork for central administration.
1781 Amending Act
- It was also known as the 1781 Declaratory Act.
- The act was primarily passed to correct the flaws in the regulating act.
- The Supreme Court’s jurisdiction was limited to Calcutta.
- Civil servants in their official capacity, revenue collectors, and judicial officers were exempted from the court’s jurisdiction.
- The Governor-General-in-Council was to hear appeals from provincial courts.
- The Regulating Act empowered the Governor General in Council to issue rules, ordinances, and regulations, but they had to be registered in the Supreme Court.
- It was India’s first attempt to separate the executive from the judiciary by defining the respective areas of jurisdiction.
The Pitt India Act of 1784
- It distinguished between the company’s political and commercial functions.
- Dual administration: The political affairs were managed by a new Board of Directors, while the commercial affairs were managed by the EIC’s court of directors.
- The Board of Directors was given the authority to supervise and direct all civil and military government operations as well as revenues from British possessions in India.
- For the first time, a company’s possession was referred to as British possessions.
- The British government was given complete authority over the Company’s affairs and administration in India.
The 1793 Charter Act
- John Shore was the author of the Charter Act of 1793.
- The EIC Charter was extended for another 20 years.
- Future Governor Generals (GG) and Governors now have the authority to override the Council.
- GG’s grip on Bombay and Madras was tightened. He now had full executive authority over the Central Government.
- It established the concept of civil law enacted by a secular agency and applied universally in India.
- It established a regular code of all internal government regulations that applied to all Indians in all matters, and it bound the courts to administer justice in accordance with the regular code.
- All laws were to be printed and translated into local languages so that people could be aware of the laws that govern them.
- The EIC was given the authority to grant licences to individuals and EIC employees to trade in India, which resulted in the Opium trade to China.
- It thus established written laws and regulations as the foundation of government in British India, replacing the personal rule of previous rulers. The Courts were supposed to interpret regulations and written laws.
- Indians were not given positions in which they could share power or authority.
- Indians were barred “to meet the demand for lucrative jobs among English men.”
The 1813 Charter Act
- The Napoleonic Wars and the misery they caused prompted traders to put pressure on the government to end EIC’s trade monopoly.
- The rule of the company was extended for another 20 years.
- The Charter Act of 1813 allowed British merchants to trade in India under a strict licencing system. However, the company maintained its monopoly in trade with China, as well as the tea and opium trades.
- It called for a financial contribution to the revival of Indian literature and the advancement of science.
- The company was asked to play a larger role in the education of the Indians who worked for them. It was to set aside one lakh rupees for this purpose.
- The act allowed Christian missionaries to spread English and preach their faith.
The 1833 Charter Act
- It appointed the governor-general of Bengal as India’s governor-general. He was given complete civil and military authority.
- Lord William Bentinck was India’s first governor-general.
- It took away the governor’s power to make laws in Bombay and Madras. The Governor-General of India now has complete legislative authority.
- EIC’s commercial activities have been completely discontinued.
- A system of open competition for civil servant selection was attempted. The Court of Directors was opposed to this.
- The laws enacted under previous acts were known as regulations. However, since the passage of this act, it has been referred to as Acts.
- The act’s provisions called for the establishment of an Indian Law Commission. Lord Macaulay was the commission’s first chairman.
- The act provided for the division of the Bengal Presidency into the Presidencies of Agra and Fort William. However, this was never implemented.
- In 1833, the British Parliament abolished slavery in the United Kingdom and all of its possessions.
- The administration’s centralization reached new heights.
- For the first time, law codification was undertaken.
- It recognised the importance of involving Indians in administration.
The 1853 Charter Act
- It provided for the separation of the council’s executive and legislative functions.
- It called for the appointment of six new legislative council members (Indian Central legislative council)
- Indians were given access to civil service.
- In the Indian Central Legislative Council, there was a local representation (Bombay, Agra, Madras, Bengal)
- The Court of Directors has the authority to establish a new presidency or province.
- The Bengal Presidency Act provided for the appointment of a separate governor.
- Though it extended EIC’s authority, no time limit was set for its rule. This meant that the EIC rule could be terminated whenever the British Parliament desired.
- In 1854, the Macaulay Committee on Civil Service was appointed, and a dedicated rule-making body was established.
Crown Rule (1858-1947)
- The 1857 revolt prompted the British Parliament to suspend the EIC’s operations. The powers of the Indian government, territories, and revenues were now transferred to the British crown.
The GOI Act of 1858
- This act is also referred to as the ‘Act for the Good Government of India.’
- It put an end to Pitt’s India Act’s Dual Government Scheme.
- The Company’s Court of Directors’ powers was transferred to the Secretary of State for India. He intended to be a member of the British Parliament. He was provided with a 15-member advisory council.
- The Secretary of State-in-Council was established as a legal entity capable of suing and being sued in India and England.
- A viceroy would be appointed to act as the British crown’s representative. Lord Canning was the first viceroy of this type.
- Through the passage of this act, India became a direct British colony.
- The act put an end to the contentious ‘Doctrine of Lapse.’
- The Indian Civil Services were to be established to administer the country. There was also a provision for admitting Indians to the service.
- Indian princes were allowed to keep their principalities as long as they accepted British suzerainty.
- Criticism of the act: It had no effect on India’s government system. The majority of the provisions were enacted to protect the crown jewel of the British empire from future threats or rebellions.
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