THE COMPANY RULE(1773–1858)

THE COMPANY RULE (1773–1858)

Regulating Act of 1773

This act was of great constitutional importance as (a) it was the first step taken by the British Government to control and regulate the affairs of the East India Company in India; (b) it recognized, for the first time, the political and administrative functions of the Company; and (c) it laid the foundations of central administration in India.

The features of this Act were as follows:

  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
  3. It provided for the establishment of a Supreme Court at Calcutta (1774) comprising one chief justice and three other
  4. It prohibited the servants of the Company from engaging in any private trade or accepting presents or bribes from the ‘natives’.
  5. It strengthened the control of the British Government over the Company by requiring the Court of Directors (governing body of the Company) to report on its revenue, civil, and military affairs in India.

Amending Act of 1781

In a bid to rectify the defects of the Regulating Act of 1773, the British Parliament passed the Amending Act of 1781, also known as the Act of Settlement.

The features of this Act were as follows:

  1. It exempted the Governor-General and the Council from the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court for the acts done by them in their official capacity. Similarly, it also exempted the servants of the company from the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court for their official actions.
  2. It excluded the revenue matters and the matters arising in the collection of revenue from the jurisdiction of the Supreme
  3. It provided that the Supreme Court was to have jurisdiction over all the inhabitants of Calcutta. It also required the court to administer the personal law of the defendants i.e., Hindus were to be tried according to the Hindu law and Muslims were to be tried according to the Mohammedan law.
  4. It laid down that the appeals from the Provincial Courts could be taken to the Governor-General-in-Council and not to the Supreme Court.
  5. It empowered the Governor-General in Council to frame regulations for the Provincial Courts and Councils.

Pitt’s India Act of 1784

The next important act was the Pitt’s India Act of 1784.

The features of this Act were as follows:

  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. 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.

Thus, the act was significant for two reasons: first, the Company’s territories in India were for the first time called the ‘British possessions in India’; and second, the British Government was given the supreme control over Company’s affairs and its administration in India.

Act of 1786

In 1786, Lord Cornwallis was appointed as the Governor-General of Bengal. He placed two demands to accept that post, viz.,

  1. He should be given power to override the decision of his council in special cases.
  2. He would also be the Commander-in-Chief.

Accordingly, the Act of 1786 was enacted to make both the provisions.

Charter Act of 1793

The features of this Act were as follows:

  1. It extended the overriding power given to Lord Cornwallis over his council, to all future Governor-Generals and Governors of Presidencies.
  2. It gave the Governor-General more powers and control over the governments of the subordinate Presidencies of Bombay and Madras.
  3. It extended the trade monopoly of the Company in India for another period of twenty years.
  4. It provided that the Commander-in-Chief was not to be a member of the Governor-General’s council, unless he was so appointed.
  5. It laid down that the members of the Board of Control and their staff were, henceforth, to be paid out of the Indian

Charter Act of 1813

The features of this Act were as follows:

  1. It abolished the trade monopoly of the company in India i.e., the Indian trade was thrown open to all British merchants. However, it continued the monopoly of the company over trade in tea and trade with China.
  2. It asserted the sovereignty of the British Crown over the Company’s territories in India.
  3. It allowed the Christian missionaries to come to India for the purpose of enlightening the people.
  4. It provided for the spread of western education among the inhabitants of the British territories in India.
  5. It authorised the Local Governments in India to impose taxes on persons. They could also punish the persons for not paying taxes.

Charter Act of 1833

This Act was the final step towards centralisation in British India.

The features of this Act were as follows:

  1. It made the Governor-General of Bengal as the Governor General of India and vested in him all civil and military powers. Thus, the act created, for the first time, Government of India having authority over the entire territorial area possessed by the British in India. Lord William Bentick was the first Governor-General of India.
  2. It deprived the Governor of Bombay and Madras of their legislative powers. The Governor-General of India was given exclusive legislative powers for the entire British India. The laws made under the previous acts were called as Regulations, while laws made under this act were called as
  3. It ended the activities of the East India Company as a commercial body, which became a purely administrative body. It provided that the Company’s territories in India were held by it ‘in trust for His Majesty, His heirs and successors’.
  4. The Charter Act of 1833 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, this provision was negated after opposition from the Court of Directors.

Charter Act of 1853

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

The features of this Act were as follows:

  1. It separated, for the 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, it established a separate Governor-General’s legislative council which came to be known as the Indian (Central) Legislative Council. This legislative wing of the council functioned as a mini Parliament, adopting the same procedures 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.
  1. It introduced an open competition system of selection and recruitment of civil servants. The covenanted 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.
  2. 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 particular period, unlike the previous Charters. This was a clear indication that the Company’s rule could be terminated at any time the Parliament liked.
  3. It introduced, for the first time, local representation in the Indian (Central) Legislative Council. Of the six new legislative members of the Governor General’s council, four members were appointed by the local (provincial) governments of Madras, Bombay, Bengal and Agra.

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