HISTORICAL BACKGROUND OF OUR CONSTITUTION part-1
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HISTORICAL BACKGROUND OF OUR CONSTITUTION part-1

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HISTORICAL BACKGROUND OF OUR CONSTITUTION Part-1

Certain events in the British rule laid down the legal framework for the organization and functioning of government in British India. These events have greatly influenced our constitution.

The Company Rule (1753-1858):

  • Regulating Act of 1773
  • Pitt’s India Act of 1784
  • Charter Act of 1833
  • Charter Act of 1853

The Crown Rule (1858-1947):

  • Government of India Act of 1858
  • Indian Council Act of 1861, 1892 and 1909
  • Government of India Act of 1919
  • Government of India Act of 1935
  • Indian Independence Act of 1947

The Company Rule:

Regulating Act of 1773:  It laid the foundation of central administration in India.

Features of the Act:

  • It designated the Governor of Bengal as the Governor-General of Bengal and created an executive council of 4
    members to assist him.
  • It made the Governors of Bombay and Madras presidencies subordinate to the Governor-General of Bengal.
  • It provided for the establishment of a Supreme Court at Calcutta comprising 1 Chief Justice and 3 other judges.
  • It prohibited the servants of the Company from engaging in any private trade or accepting bribes or presents.
  • It strengthened the control of the British Government over the company by requiring the Court of Directors (the governing body of the company) to report on its revenue, civil, and military affairs in India.

Pitts’s India Act of 1784:

  • It distinguished between the commercial and political functions of the Company.
  • It allowed the Court of Directors to manage the commercial affairs and created a new body called the Board of Control to manage political affairs. It established a system of double government.
  • 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”.

Pitts’s India Act of 1784:

  • It distinguished between the commercial and political functions of the Company.
  • It allowed the Court of Directors to manage the commercial affairs and created a new body called the Board of Control to manage political affairs. It established a system of double government.
  • 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”.

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 and vested in him all civil and military powers. It created a Government of India having authority over the entire territorial area possessed by the British in India.
  • It deprived the governor of Bombay and Madras of their legislative powers.
  • It ended the activities of the East India Company as a commercial body, which became a purely administrative body.
  • It attempted to introduce a system of open competition for the selection of civil servants and stated that Indians should not be debarred from holding any office under the Company. But this provision was opposed by the Court of Directors.

Charter Act of 1853:

  • It separated the legislative and executive functions of the Governor-General’s council. It provided for the addition of 6 new members to the council, called legislative councilors. It established a separate Governor-General’s legislative council, known as the Indian (Central) Legislative Council.
  • It introduced an open competition system of selection and recruitment of civil servants.
  • It extended the Company’s rule and allowed it to retain the possession of Indian territories on trust for the British Crown. But it did not specify any time period indicating that the Company’s rule could be terminated anytime by the Parliament.
  • It introduced local representation in the Indian Legislative Council. Of the 6 new legislative members, 4 members were appointed by the local governments of Madras, Bombay, Bengal, and Agra.

The Crown Rule:

Government of India Act of 1858: It abolished the East India Company, and transferred the powers to the British Crown.

Features of the Act:

  • The designation of the Governor-General of India was changed to Viceroy of India. He was the direct representative of the British Crown in 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 over Indian administration. He was a member of the British Cabinet and was responsible ultimately for the British Parliament.
  • It established an advisory body of 15 member Council of India to assist the Secretary of State (Chairman of Council) for India.

Indian Council Act of 1861:

  • It associated Indians with the law-making process. The viceroy could nominate some Indians as non-official members of his expanded council.
  • It initiated the process of decentralization by restoring the legislative powers to the Bombay and Madras Presidencies.
  • It also provided for the establishment of new legislative councils for Bengal, North Western Frontier Province, and Punjab.
  • It empowered the Viceroy to make rules and orders for the convenient transaction of business in the council. It also gave recognition to the portfolio system.
  • It empowered the Viceroy to issue ordinances, without the concurrence of the legislative council, during an emergency. The life of such an ordinance was 6 months.

Indian Council Act of 1892:

  • It increased the number of additional (non-official) members in the central and provincial legislative councils but maintained the official majority in them.
  • It increased the functions of the legislative council and gave them the power of discussing the budget and addressing questions to the executive.
  • It provided for the nomination of some non-official members of the:
  • Central Legislative Council by the viceroy on the recommendation of the provincial legislative councils and the Bengal Chamber of Commerce.
  • Provincial Legislative councils by the Governors on the recommendation of the district boards, municipalities, universities, trade associations, zamindars, and chambers.

Indian Council Act of 1909:

  • It is also known as Morley-Minto Reforms. It increased the size of the legislative councils, both central (from 16 to 60) and provincial (not uniform).
  • It retained an official majority in the Central Legislative Council but allowed the provincial legislative councils to have a non-official majority.
  • It enlarged the deliberative functions of the legislative councils at both levels. Members were allowed to ask
    supplementary questions, move a resolution on the budget, etc.
  • It provided for the association of Indians with the executive councils of the Viceroy and Governors.
  • It introduced a system of communal representation for Muslims by accepting the concept of ‘separate electorate’.
  • It provided for the separate representation of presidency corporations, chamber of commerce, universities, and zamindars.

Historical Background of our Constitution Part-2