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Important Acts: Pre-Independence of India

19th Aug, 2021

Regulating Act of 1773

  • The first step was taken by the British Parliament to control and regulate the affairs of the East India Company in India.
  • It designated the Governor of Bengal (Fort William) as the Governor-General (of Bengal).
  • Warren Hastings became the first Governor-General of Bengal.
  • Executive Council of the Governor-General was established (Four members). There was no separate legislative council.
  • It subordinated the Governors of Bombay and Madras to the Governor-General of Bengal.
  • The Supreme Court was established at Fort William (Calcutta) as the Apex Court in 1774.
  • It prohibited servants of the company from engaging in any private trade or accepting bribes from the natives.
  • Court of Directors (the governing body of the company) should report its revenue.

Pitt’s India Act of 1784

  • Distinguished between commercial and political functions of the company.
  • Court of Directors for Commercial functions and Board of Control for political affairs.
  • Reduced the strength of the Governor General’s council to three members.
  • Placed the Indian affairs under the direct control of the British Government.
  • The companies’ territories in India were called “the British possession in India”.
  • Governor’s councils were established in Madras and Bombay.

Charter Act of 1813

  • The Company’s monopoly over Indian trade terminated; Trade with India open to all British subjects.

Charter Act of 1833

  • Governor-General (of Bengal) became the Governor-General of India.
  • First Governor-General of India was Lord William Bentick.
  • This was the final step towards centralization in  British India.
  • Beginning of a Central legislature for India as the act also took away legislative powers of Bombay and Madras provinces.
  • The Act ended the activities of the East India Company as a commercial body and it became a purely administrative body.

Charter Act of 1853

  • The legislative and executive functions of the Governor-General’s Council were separated.
  • 6 members in Central legislative council. Four out of six members were appointed by the provisional governments of Madras, Bombay, Bengal and Agra.
  • It introduced a system of open competition as the basis for the recruitment of civil servants of the Company (Indian Civil Service opened for all).

Government of India Act of 1858

  • The rule of Company was replaced by the rule of the Crown in India.
  • The powers of the British Crown were to be exercised by the Secretary of State for India
  • He was assisted by the Council of India, having 15 members
  • He was vested with complete authority and control over the Indian administration through the Viceroy as his agent
  • The Governor-General was made the Viceroy of India.
  • Lord Canning was the first Viceroy of India.
  • Abolished Board of Control and Court of Directors.

Indian Councils Act of 1861

  • It introduced for the first time Indian representation in the institutions like Viceroy’s executive+legislative council (non-official). 3 Indians entered the Legislative council.
  • Legislative councils were established in Center and provinces.
  • It provided that the Viceroy’s Executive Council should have some Indians as the non-official members while transacting the legislative businesses.
  • It accorded statutory recognition to the portfolio system.
  • Initiated the process of decentralisation by restoring the legislative powers to the Bombay and the Madras Provinces.

India Council Act of 1892

  • Introduced indirect elections (nomination).
  • Enlarged the size of the legislative councils.
  • Enlarged the functions of the Legislative Councils and gave them the power of discussing the Budget and addressing questions to the Executive.

Indian Councils Act of 1909

  • This Act is also known as the Morley- Minto Reforms.
  • Direct elections to legislative councils; first attempt at introducing a representative and popular element.
  • It changed the name of the Central Legislative Council to the Imperial Legislative Council.
  • The member of the Central Legislative Council was increased to 60 from 16.
  • Introduced a system of communal representation for Muslims by accepting the concept of ‘separate electorate’.
  • Indians for the first time in Viceroys executive council. (Satyendra Prasanna Sinha, as the law member)

Government of India Act of 1919

  • This Act is also known as the Montague-Chelmsford Reforms.
  • The Central subjects were demarcated and separated from those of the Provincial subjects.
  • The scheme of dual governance, ‘Dyarchy’, was introduced in the Provincial subjects.
  • Under the dyarchy system, the provincial subjects were divided into two parts – transferred and reserved. On reserved subjects, Governor was not responsible to the Legislative council.
  • The Act introduced, for the first time, bicameralism at the center.
  • Legislative Assembly with 140 members and Legislative council with 60 members.
  • Direct elections.
  • The Act also required that the three of the six members of the Viceroy’s Executive Council (other than Commander-in-Chief) were to be Indians.
  • Provided for the establishment of the Public Service Commission.

Government of India Act of 1935

  • The Act provided for the establishment of an All-India Federation consisting of the Provinces and the Princely States as units, though the envisaged federation never came into being.
  • Three Lists: The Act divided the powers between the Centre and the units into items of three lists, namely the Federal List, the Provincial List and the Concurrent List.
  • The Federal List for the Centre consisted of 59 items, the Provincial List for the provinces consisted of 54 items and the Concurrent List for both consisted of 36 items
  • The residuary powers were vested with the Governor-General.
  • The Act abolished the Dyarchy in the Provinces and introduced ‘Provincial Autonomy’.
  • It provided for the adoption of Dyarchy at the Centre.
  • Introduced bicameralism in 6 out of 11 Provinces.
  • These six Provinces were Assam, Bengal, Bombay, Bihar, Madras and the United Province.
  • Provided for the establishment of Federal Court.
  • Abolished the Council of India.

Indian Independence Act of 1947

  • It declared India as an Independent and Sovereign State.
  • Established responsible Governments at both the Centre and the Provinces.
  • Designated the Viceroy India and the provincial Governors as the Constitutional (normal heads).
  • It assigned dual functions (Constituent and Legislative) to the Constituent Assembly and declared this dominion legislature as a sovereign body.

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