Indian Polity

First set of Indian Polity Material consists of History of Constitutional evolution in India.



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The Company Rule (1773-1858)

1600: East India Company came to India as a trading company.

1765: After the battle of Buxar, the company which was a purely trading body received diwani (i.e. rights over revenue and civil justice) of Bengal, Bihar and Orissa.

1858: British Crown assumed the direct responsibility for the governance of India in the wake of the Sepoy Mutiny.

Here are some glimpse of the administrative directives and acts which were the basis of Company and British rule in India. The evolution Indian constitutional history passes through the following events.

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Regulating Act of 1773: It was the first act to regulate the function of the company in India in the wake of the allegation of corruption by company officials and reforms required in the administration.

  1. It designated the Governor of Bengal as the ‘Governor-General of Bengal’ and created an Executive Council of four members to assist him. The first such Governor-General was Lord Warren Hastings.
  2. It made the governors of Bombay and Madras presidencies subordinate to the governor-general of Bengal, unlike earlier, when the three presidencies were independent of one another.
  3. It provided for the establishment of a Supreme Court at Calcutta (1774) comprising one chief justice and three other judges. Chief Justice was Elija Imphey.
  4. It prohibited the servants of the Company from engaging in any private trade or accepting presents or bribes from the ‘natives’.
  5. Court of Directors (governing body of the company) to report on its revenue, civil and military affairs in India.

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Pitt’s India Act of 1784: The failure of the previous act led to the design of this act.

 

  1. It distinguished between the commercial and political functions of the company.
  2. It allowed the court of directors to manage the commercial affairs but created a new body called Board of Control to manage the political affairs. Thus, it established a system of double government.
  3. The Company’s territories in India were for the first time called the ‘British possessions in India’.
  4. Governor General to be assisted with a subordinate council of 3 members. In 1786 with an amendment, the post of Commander-in-Chief and Governor-General of Bengal was combined. Warren Hastings was the then Governor General of Bengal and Commander-in-Chief.
Pitts' Act 1784
Administrative structure of East India Company in India



Charter Act of 1793: From now on the right of the company to rule in India was fixed to 20 years and after every 20 years there was a charter to prolong it with necessary reforms.

  1. The Governor General was empowered to disregard the majority in the Council in special circumstances. Thus, more powers were entrusted in him. The Governor General and respective governors of the other presidencies could now override the respective councils.
  2. The commander in chief was not now the member of Governor General’s council, unless he was specially appointed to be a member by the Court of Directors.
  3. Laws and Regulations were coded and translated in Indian Languages by the directives of this Charter Act.

Charter Act of 1813:

  1. Company lost the monopoly trade right in India (except for tea and trade in China)
  2. Christian Missionaries were granted entry to spread Christianity in India subject to obtaining a licence either from the Court of Directors or Board of Control.
  3. 1 Lakh per annum was allotted for the purpose of education in India.
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Charter Act of 1833:                                          

  1. It made the Governor-General of Bengal as the Governor-General of India and vested in him all civil and military powers.
  2. Lord William Bentick was the first Governor-General of India.
  3. It deprived the governor of Bombay and Madras of their legislative powers. The Governor General of India was given exclusive legislative power for the entire British India.
  4. It ended the activities of the East India Company as a Commercial Body, which became a pure administrative body. It provided that the companies territories in India were held by it ‘In trust for his Majesty’ heirs and successors’.
  5. Uniform law for Indians and Britishers were established (Codification of Laws) from where today’s IPC (Indian Penal Code) has been evolved.
  6. The act is associated with famous Macaulay’s Minute which became the blueprint of English Education in India.
  7. It attempted to introduce a system of open competition for selection of civil servants, and stated that the Indians should not be debarred from holding any place office and employment under the company. However, thus provision was negated after opposition from the Court of Directors.



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Charter Act of 1853: 20 years of extension of right to rule in India by the company was not given.

  1. It separated, for the first time, the legislative and executive functions of the Governor-General’s council. It provides for 6 new members called legislative councillors to the council which comes to be known as Indian (Central) Legislative Council. This legislative wing of the council functioned as a mini parliament adopting the same procedure as the British Parliament. Thus, legislation for the first time was treated as a special function of the government, requiring special machinery and special process.
  2. It introduced an open competition system of selection and requirement of civil servants. The coveted civil service was thus thrown open to the Indians also. Accordingly, the Macaulay Committee (the Committee on the Indian Civil Service) was appointed in 1854.
  3. It extended the Company’s rule and allowed it to retain the possession of Indian territories on trust for the British Crown.

Prepared by Bratajit Saha.

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