Significant Company Rule Acts in India

The East India Company ruled on India during the 18th/19th century, during this period of ruling a number of laws where made. Below is a summary of all the acts which were made during this period of time.

Regulating Act of 1773

This act is of quite high significance as this was first law made by The British Government for controlling activity of The East India Company in India. This law defined Political and Administrative functions of The East India Company in India and also become first step towards foundation of central administration in India.

Features of Regulating Act of 1773

  • Regulating Act of 1773 designated ‘Governor of Bengal’ as “Governor-General of Bengal” and created an Executive Council of four members to assist him with governance.
  • Regulating Act of 1773 made governors of Bombay, Madras presidencies subordinate of Governor-General of Bengal. Earlier these three presidencies(Bombay, Madras and Bengal) used to be independent of each other.
  • Regulating Act of 1773 laid the foundation for the establishment of the Supreme Court in Calcutta which would be consisted of one chief justice and three other judges. (Supreme Court was established in Calcutta in 1774, one year after passing of this act)
  • Regulating Act of 1773 strengthened control of the British Government over The East India Company’s operations in India. This act required Court of Directors of East India Company, to report its revenue, civil and military affairs details to The British Government.

Pitt’s India Act of 1784

For rectifying defects in Regulating Act of 1773, the British Government passed Amending Act of 1781. But next significant act was Pitt’s India Act of 1784. Below is a summary of features of this act.

What is significance of Pitt’s India Act of 1784? The act was significant for two reasons. First being The East India Company’s territories in India were defined as ‘British Possessions’ for first time. Second being that British Government was given supreme control over East India Company’s affairs and its administration in India.

Features of Pitt’s India Act of 1784

  • Pitt’s India Act of 1784 made a clear distinction between the Political and Commercial functions of the East India Company in India.
  • Pitt’s India Act of 1784 established a new branch in The East India Company called “Board of Control”, this branch’s primary purpose was to manage political affairs. So now The East India Company have two governing branches.
    • Court of Directors for managing Commercial Affairs
    • Board of Control for managing political affairs
  • Pitt’s India Act of 1784 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

Charter Act of 1833 was a final step towards centralisation of power in The British India.

Features of Charter Act of 1833

  • Charter Act of 1833 made “Governor-General of Bengal” as ‘Governor-General of India‘ and vested in him all the civil and military powers.
  • Charter Act of 1833 created a central authority(called Governor-General of India) for managing an entire territorial area of India, which was possessed by the British. (Lord William Bentick then become first Governor-General of India).
  • Charter Act of 1833 deprived legislative powers of Governors of Bombay, Madras and gave exclusive legislative powers to newly made role Governor-General of India.
  • Charter Act of 1833 attempted to introduce a system of open competition for the selection of civil servants and stated that Indians should not be excluded from holding any office and employment. But this provision in Charter Act of 1833 was retracted by The British Government after opposition from the Court of Directors of The East India Company.

Charter Act of 1853

This act was last of series of Character Acts passed by the British Parliament between 1793 and 1853. It was significant constitutional landmark.

Features of Charter Act of 1853

  • Charter Act of 1853 separated for 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. In other words, this act established a separate Governor-General’s Legislative Council which came to be known as the Indian Legislative Council later on. This legislative wing of the council functioned as a mini-parliament, adopting the procedures as the British Parliament. Thus legislation for the first in Indian History was treated as a special function of government, requiring special machinery and special process.
  • Charter Act of 1853 introduced an open competition system for the selection and recruitment of civil servants in the Government.
  • Charter Act of 1853 introduced local representation in Indian Legislative Council. Of the six new legislative memebers of the Governor-general’s council, four memebers were appointed by local provincial governments of Madras, Bombay, Bengal and Agra.

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