Constitutional Development of India

The constitutional development of India began with the Regulating Act of 1773. The previous events played a significant role, as the interference of the Company increased in Indian politics. The East India Company got Diwani (revenue collection rights) after the battle of Buxar (1764).

We discuss the main provisions of some important Acts given below:
  • The Regulating Act of 1773
  • Pits India Act of 1784
  • The Act of 1786
  • The Charter Act of 1793
  • The Charter Act of 1813
  • The Charter Act of 1833
  • The Charter Act of 1853
  • The Government of India Act of 1858
  • Indian Council Act of 1861
  • Indian Council Act of 1892
  • Indian Council Act of 1909 – Morley -Minto Reforms
  • Government of India Act, 1919
  • Government of India Act, 1935
The Regulating Act of 1773

The Regulating Act of 1773 was an initiation of the involvement of the British Government in Indian affairs. By the Act role of the company extended beyond trade to politics and administration.

  • They got the right to exercise control over Indian affairs.
  • The administration of Bengal carried a governor-general and a council consisting of four members. Warren Hastings as First Governor-General.
  • Foundation of Supreme Court in Bengal. Established on 22 Oct 1774.
  • The power of the Governor-general extended to Bombay and Madras.
  • Amendments in Act- 1781 –
    • Supreme Court jurisdiction defined within Calcutta
    • The government servants were immune to anything they do during duty.
    • Social and religious subjects used to be Honored
Pits India Act of 1784 

By the Pits India Act of 1784, the British Government extended control over the company’s affairs. Now the territories of the company were termed ‘British Possessions.’

The company’s civil, military, and revenue work under the observation Board of Control consisting of the chancellor of the treasury, a secretary of state, and four members of the Privy Council (appointed by the Crown), set up of the dual system of control.

  • In India, the Governor-general with a council of three, and the presidencies of Bombay and Madras were subordinate to the governor-general.
  • Prohibition was placed on wars and treaties.

The Act of 1786

By the Act of 1786, the power of both governor-general and commander-in-chief was given to Cornwallis. Later For all governors-general, the provision was extended.

The Charter Act of 1793

The provision for the Charter Act of 1793 was:

  • For the next 20 years, the Commercial privilege of the company was renewed.
  • The company had to pay 5 Lakh pounds to the British government.
  • Senior officials of the company were prohibited from leaving India without permission.
  • The company was empowered to privilege (license) or country trade in India.
  • The revenue administration was separated from the judiciary function.
The Charter Act of 1813

Due to the Charter Act of 1883, the monopoly of the company ended on the Indian trade, but the trade with China and trade in tea were retained.

10.5 percent of Indian revenue was Given to the Company’s shareholders. The company retained possession and revenue for the next 20 years.

  • Board control’s powers were enlarged.
  • One lakh rupees every for revival, promotion, and encouragement of literature.
  • Separate accounts for commercial transactions and territorial revenues.
The Charter Act of 1833 

The provisions of the Charter Act of 1833 were:

The company’s lease was extended again for 20 years.

  • The monopoly of the Company over China and tea ended.
  • Financial, Legislative, and administrative centralization of government was presumed.
  • The Governor-general gained the power to superintend, control, and direct the civil and military affairs of the Company.
    • The complete control of the Governor-general on Bengal, Madras, Bombay, and other territories.
  • Law members were added to the council.
  • No discrimination on the basis of religion, color, or descent for Indian citizens’ employment in the company.
  • Steps for betterment in slaves’ condition. In 1843 slavery was abolished.


The Charter Act of 1853

  • Court’s director’s strength was reduced to 18.
  • Now competitive examinations for services.
  • In the governor Generals’ executive council, the law members became full-time members.
  • Six additional members were included for legislative purposes.
  • In the Indian legislature, Local representation was introduced, i.e. the Indian Legislative Council.


The Government of India Act of 1858

The Act was passed by the Parliament of England, and royal assets were received on 2nd August 1858. The Proclamation of Queen Victoria gave shape to the Act of 1858, with the announcement of the end of Company rule and the Queen’s assumption of government of India.

  • The Company’s rule ended, and India was to be governed under the control of the Crown.
  • The Secretary of State (a member of the British Cabinet) for India and The Indian Council (consisting of 15 members) were established.
  • Sir Charles Wood was the first secretary of state for India.
  • The governor-general of India was made the Viceroy of India. The first viceroy of India was Lord Canning.
Indian Council Act of 1861
  • In the Governor-General executive council, the number of members increased.
  • Later the Governor-General’s executive council was enlarged to a Central Legislative Council.
  • Lord Canning introduced The Portfolio System.
  • the weakness of the council;
    • The legislative council could not discuss important matters and financial matters.
    • They haven’t control over the budget.
    • Executive actions could not be discussed.
Indian Council Act of 1892

The Regulating Act of 1773 was recognized as the first achievement of the Indian National Congress.

  • The number of non-official members was increased both in central and provincial legislative councils.
  • Now the members could discuss the budget and put questions to the executive after six days’ notice.
  • They were allowed to criticize the financial policy of the Government.
Indian Council Act 1909- (Morley-Minto Reforms)

Lord Morley, the secretary of state for India, and Lord Minto the Governor-General of India collective passed the Act. It was passed with the support of Moderates in Congress.

  • The strength of the Central Legislative Council was increased to a maximum capacity of 60.
  • In the Executive Council of the Governor-General, an Indian was appointed for the first time- Sir Satyendra Prashad Sinha as a law member.
  • The number of Provincial legislative members increased to 50.
  • Separate electorates were provided for Muslims. The principle of a separate electorate led to the partition of India in 1947.
Government of India Act, 1919

The Government of India Act, of 1919 was also known as the Montague-Chelmsford Reforms. On the 20th of August 1917, the secretary of state for India Monteguge made a declaration in the House of Commons. The government of India the Act of 1919 passed in England for the first time. Lord Chelmsford was the viceroy of India at that time.

  • In provinces, Dyacrhi was introduced. The Provinces were divided into Reserved subjects (like police, jails, and land revenue) Under the Governor and Transferred Subjects (such as education, Local self-government, Public health, Sanitation, agriculture, and industries) under his ministers.
  • A bicameral system was introduced in place of the Indian legislative council in the center. It consists Council of States (Upper house) and a Legislative Assembly (lower house). The majority of members of both houses were elected.
  • The principle of communal representation extended.
    • the separate electorate for Sikhs, Christians, and Anglo-Indians besides Muslims.
  • A High Commissioner for India was appointed in London.
The Government of India Act 1935

The Government of India Act 1935 was passed on the basis of the report of the Simon Commission, as the result of round table conferences and the white paper issued by the British Government in 1933.

The Salient Features of the Act were:

  • The Act included 321 sections and 10 schedules.
  • By the Simon Commission, Provision for All India Federation at the center. (Princely states did not accept it)
  • division of powers- Federal, Provincial, and concurrent
  • Introduction of Dyarchy at the Center as Federal Executive.
  • Federal legislature with two chambers (bicameral), the Council of state, and the federal legislative assembly.
  • Dyarchy in provinces was abolished and provided autonomy.
  • The communal electorates extended to the depressed class, women, and labor.
  • 10% of the total population got the right to vote.
  • The Indian Council of the Secretary of State was abolished.
  • A federal court was established with a Chief Justice and six Judges.
  • This Act was in force till the 15th of August 1947.

The Act was rejected by Congress and demanded an adult franchise to frame the Indian Constitution for Independent India.


constitutional development of India

constitutional development of British India


After the Act of 1935, many developments came into the system. The August offer of 1940, the Cripps proposal of 1942, the C.R formula of 1944 for the cooperation of the Muslim League, Wavell Plan of 1945 at cabinet mission. Mountbatten Plan in 1947 and the Indian Independence Act of 1947.


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