Important Acts under the Crown Rule in India

After the Acts to regulate the affairs of East India Company (1773 – 1858) were passed, the British government abolished the East India Company and transferred the powers of government, territories, and revenues to the British Crown.

This was the consequence of the Revolt of 1857 also known as Sepoy Mutiny.

This post will list all the important Acts and their features that were introduced under the Crown Rule in a precise way.

Government Of India Act 1858

This act marked the starting of Crown Rule in India wherein the British government strengthen its control over the Indian Administration.

The main features of this act were –

1. The Governor-General of India was now designated as the Viceroy of India working under the British Crown (Lord Canning became to first Viceroy of India)
2. It ended the system of double government by abolishing the Board of Control and Court of Directors.
3. A new office, Secretary of State for India, was created to control the Indian administration. He was a member of British cabinet and responsible to the British Parliament.
4. It established a 15 member advisory council to assist the secretary of state for India who acted as Chairman.
5. It constituted the secretary of state-in-council as a body corporate, capable of suing and being sued in India and in England.

Indian Councils Act of 1861, 1892 and 1909

Indian Councils act of 1861 , 1892 and 1909 were introduced to include Indians in the administrative machinery of the country.

The main features of this act were –

Indian Councils Act of 1861
1. It provided that the viceroy should nominate some Indians as non-official members of his expanded council. Lord Canning in 1862, nominated (to legislative council) Raja of Benaras, the Maharaja of Patiala and Sir Dinkar Rao.
2. This Act initiated the process of decentralization by restoring the legislative powers to the Bombay and Madras Presidencies (which were taken away in Regulating Act of 1773)
3. New legislative councils for Bengal, North-Western Provinces, and Punjab, were established in 1862, 1886, and 1897 respectively under this act.
4. It also gave recognition to the ‘portfolio‘ system, introduced by Lord Canning in 1859.
5. It empowered the Viceroy to issue ordinances without the agreement of the legislative council, during an emergency. The life of such an ordinance was six months.
Indian Councils Act of 1892
1. It increased the additional (non-official) members but maintained the majority of Official members.
2. The legislative can now discuss budget and address questions to the executive.
3. It provided for the ‘nomination‘ of some non-official members of the (a) Central Legislative Council by the viceroy on the recommendation of the provincial legislative councils and the Bengal Chamber of Commerce, and (b) that of the Provincial legislative councils by the Governors on the recommendation of the district boards, municipalities, universities, trade associations, zamindars, and chambers.
Indian Councils Act of 1909
1. Also known as Morley-Minto Reforms.
2. It considerably increased the size of the legislative councils, both Central and provincial. The number of members in the Central Legislative Council was raised from 16 to 60. The number of members in the provincial legislative councils was not uniform.
3. Official members were still in majority in the Central Legislative Council but allowed the provincial legislative councils to have non-official majority.
4. It enlarged the deliberative functions of the legislative councils at both levels. For example, members were allowed to ask supplementary questions, move resolutions on the budget, and so on.
5. It provided for the first time for the association of Indians with the Executive Council of the Viceroy and Governors. Satyendra Prasad Sinha became the first Indian to join the Viceroy’s Executive Council. He was appointed as the law member.
6. This act legalized communalism by introducing a system of communal representation for Muslims by accepting the concept of ‘separate electorate’. Under this, the Muslim members were to be elected only by Muslim voters. Lord Minto came to be known as Father of Communal Electorate.
7. Separate representation of presidency corporations, chambers of commerce, universities, and zamindars were also provided.

Government of India Act 1919

This act, also known as Montagu-Chelmsford Reforms came into force in 1921.

The main features of this act were –

1. It separated the Central and provincial subjects.
2. Introduced “Dyarchy”, a system of dual governance. Provincial subjects were divided into 2 parts – transferred and reserved. Transferred subjects to be administered by the governor with the aid of ministers responsible to the Legislative Council. The reserved subjects were to be administered by the governor and his executive council without being responsible to the Legislative Council.
3. Bicameralism and direct elections were introduced. The legislative council was divided into Upper House (Council of State) and Lower House (Legislative assembly) with most members chosen by direct elections.
4. Three out of six members of Viceroy’s executive council were to be Indian.
5. The Communal representation was extended further by providing separate electorates for Sikhs, Indian Christians, Anglo-Indians, and Europeans.
6. It created a new office of the High Commissioner for India in London.
7. It provided for the establishment of a public service commission (was set up in 1926).
8. It separated, for the first time, provincial budget from the Central budget and authorized the provincial legislatures to enact their budgets.

Government of India Act of 1935

This Act became an important milestone in the history of Indian Independence.

The main features of this act were –

1. The Act provided for the establishment of an All India Federation. Divided the powers into 3 lists – Federal, Provincial, and Concurrent. Residuary powers were given to Viceroy. This federation never came into force.
2. It Abolishued Dyarchy and introduced Provincial Autonomy in its place.
3. It provided for Dyarchy at the center but this provision never came into force.
4. Introduced bicameralism in six out of eleven provinces (Bengal, Bombay, Madras, Bihar, Assam and the United Provinces) but with many restrictions.
5. Further extended the principle of communal representation by providing separate electorates for depressed classes (scheduled castes), women, and labor (workers).
6. Abolished Council of India set up under the Government of India Act 1858.
7. The voting rights were extended to about 10 percent of the total population.
8. It provided for the establishment of a Reserve Bank of India to control the currency and credit of the country.
9. It provided for the establishment of a Federal Court, which was set up in 1937.

Indian Independence Act 1947

After the British announcement of free India, this act was formulated .

The main features of this act were –

1. It ended the British rule in India and declared India as an independent and sovereign state from August 15, 1947.
2. Provided for the partition of India and the creation of two independent dominions of India and Pakistan.
3. It abolished the office of the viceroy and provided for each dominion, a governor-general, who was to be appointed by the British King on the advice of the Dominion Cabinet (Lord Mountbatten became first governor-general on India).
4. Abolished the office of the secretary of state for India and transferred his functions to the secretary of state for Commonwealth Affairs.
5. It granted freedom to the Indian princely states either to join the Dominion of India or Domain ion of Pakistan or to remain independent.
6. It provided for the governance according to the Government of India Act 1935 till the new constitution is framed.
7. It deprived the British Monarch of his right to veto bills or ask for reservation of certain bills for his approval. But, this right was reserved for Governor-General.
8. It designated the Governor-General of India and provincial Governors as Constitutional (nominal) heads of the state acting on the advice of the respective council of ministers in all matters.

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