Modern India

Modern India Constitutional Developments

When the officials of the East India Company acquired control over Bengal in 1765 they had little intention of making any innovations in its administration. They only desired to carry on profitable trade and to collect taxes for remission to England. From 1762 to 1772 Indian officials were allowed to function as before but under the overall control of the British governor and British officials. In 1772 the company ended the dual government and undertook to administer Bengal directly through its own set of officials. The East India Company was at this time a commercial body designed to trade with the East. But during the period that elapsed between the Pitt’s India Act (1784) and the Charter Act of 1833 the company was gradually relieved of its long held trading privileges in the east.

Simultaneously it grew to be the paramount power in India responsible for the government of a very large population spread over an immense area. The English realized that if the country was to supply regular revenue it had to be properly governed. The Regulating Act of 1773 was a first step in this direction. Warren Hastings the first governor-general under the provisions of the Act tried to maintain as much of the structure of the Mughal administration as possible. The machinery of government went on as before; the British were left free to concentrate on revenue collection and trade. Hastings successor Lord Cornwallis changed all this. He scrapped the old system replacing the new in which the British openly ruled Bengal.

Modern India Constitutional Developments
Modern India Constitutional Developments


No Act Year
1. Regulating Act 1773
2. Pitts India Act 1784
3. The Charter Act 1793
4. The Charter Act 1813
5. The Charter Act 1833
6. The Charter Act 1853
7. The Act for the better govt of India 1858
8. The Indian Councils Act 1861
9. The Indian Councils Act 1892
10. Minto-Morley Reforms 1909
11. The Government of India Act 1919
12. The Government of India Act 1935
13. Basic Tenets of India’s Foreign Policy 1947-1961

Importance of Pitt’s India Act

It brought many important changes in the constitution of the Company. It constituted a dept of state in England known as the Board of Control whose special function was to control the policy if the Court of Directors. The Act helped the unification of India by making the Governor-General supreme over the Governors of the other presidencies. The deletion of the one member from the Executive Council of the Governor-General made his position stronger. The British Parliament claimed supremacy over the possessions of the Company in India. This Act made it clear that Company’s direct relation is with trade and not with politics.

The Charter Act restricted the patronage of the Directors. It centralized the administration of the English Company of India. Governor General of Bengal became the Governor General of India. Presidencies of Bombay, Madras and Bengal were placed under the control of Governor General in council. President of the Board of Control became the Minister for Indian affairs. The Charter Act also brought about the legislative centralization of India. Governor General in council was authorized to make Articles of War and code of military discipline and provide for the administration of justice. Governor General in council could not alter the constitution of the company or amend the charter itself. The Charter Act added a new member to the executive council of the Governor General known as the law member.

The number of the members of the Council of the governors of Bombay and Madras was reduced to two. Bombay and Madras were to keep their separate armies under their commanders in chief but they were to be under the control of the central government. The Act provided for the codification of laws in India. Provision was made for the appointment of a law commission for that purpose. The Act of 1833 brought about important and far reaching changes in the Constitution of India. The company was relieved of its monopoly of tea trade in India and of the trade with China thus completing the work of the Charter Act of 1813.

Pitt’s India Act (1784)

The Act of 1784 introduced changes mainly in the company’s home government in London. It greatly extended the control of the State over the Company’s affairs. It provided for a Board of Control of 6 privy councilors. All civil, military and revenue affairs were controlled through this board. Directors were to retain the right of making appointment to different offices in India. They were also given the power of revising and reviewing the acts of the Indian administration. The court of proprietors was deprived of its right of overriding the decisions of the Court of Directors. Governor-General was to be appointed by the Directors with the approval of the Crown. The Act disapproved the policy of intervention as followed by the servants of the Company in India. It was declared that the official offenders were not to be pardoned if they were found guilty of having committed any offence.

Governor General in Council was given the power of controlling and directing the several presidencies. The members of the Council of Governor –General were reduced to three from four. Governors of Bombay and Madras were completely under Governor General.

The Act of 1786

In 1786 Pitt brought another bill in the Parliament relating to India in a bid to prevail upon Cornwallis to accept the Governor Generalship of India. Cornwallis wanted to have the power of both the Governor General and the Commander in Chief. The provisions of the Act were The Governor general got in special cases relating to peace, defence or well being of Indian empire, the power to override the majority of the council.

The Governor General now became the effective ruler of British India under the control of the Board and the Directors. Stage by stage the control of British Parliament over the country increased.

Charter Act of 1793

The English East India Company was given a new Charter in 1793.The Company’s commercial privileges were extended for another twenty years. The governor-general and the governors were given the power to override their councils. The power had been given specially to Cornwallis in 1786.The control of Governor General over the Presidencies of Madras and Bombay was emphasized. Governor General was given the power to appoint a vice president of his executive council from the members of the council. The Commander in Chief was not to be a member of the council of the Governor General unless he was specially appointed to a member by the court of directors.

The jurisdiction of the Calcutta Supreme Court was extended to the high seas. Power was given to appoint members of the civil service as justices of the Peace, to appoint scavengers for the Presidency towns to levy a sanitary rate and to forbid the sale of liquor with out a licencse.The Act tried to regulate the finances of the company. A particular amount was assumed to be the annual surplus of the company.

Charter Act of 1813

By 1813 when renewal of the Company’s charter was due there were elaborate discussions about the justification of the commercial privileges enjoyed by the company. The extent of the company’s territories in India had so much expanded that it was considered to be impossible for it to continue both a commercial and political functionary. Englishmen demanded a share in the trade with India in view of the new economic theories of laissez faire and the continental system introduced by Napolean.The Englishmen demanded the termination of the commercial monopoly of the company. The Act of 1813 renewed the charter of the East India Company for 20 years.

The company was deprived of its monopoly trade with India but she was to enjoy her monopoly of trade with China for 20 years. Trade was thrown open to all British subjects the company retaining only its monopoly over tea and the china trade. While offering the company’s right to the territorial possession and revenues of India, the Act proclaimed the sovereignty of the crown over them. The Indian administration was asked to maintain separate accounts for its commercial and political activities.

The Directors kept their rights of patronage but all important appointment were henceforth to be subject to the approval of the crown. The Act marks the beginning of an ecclesiastical establishment in India for missionaries were now permitted to settle in the country. An educational policy was also initiated by the grant of Rs one lakh out of the Company’s Indian revenues for the encouragement of education, literature and science. Local governments of India were given the right of levying taxes on their subjects and punishing those not paying them.

The Charter Act of 1853

British Parliament was called upon to renew the Charter of the Company in 1853.The Parliament had in the preceding year appointed two committees to go into the affairs of the Company and on the basis of their reports the Charter Act of 1853 was framed and passed. According to the new Act the law member was made a full member of Executive Council of the Governor General. Governor- General was given power to nominate a vice president of his council.

The Act provided that the salaries of the members of the Board of Control ,its secretary and other officers would be fixed by the British Government but would be paid by the company. Power was given to the court of directors to constitute a new presidency. Power was also given to alter and regulate from time to time the limits of the various provinces. This power was used to create the Punjab into a Lieutenant Governorship.

The number of the members of the courts of Directors was reduced from 24 to 18 out of which 6 were to be nominated by the crown. Power was given to the court of directors to constitute a new presidency. Power was also given to alter and regulate from time to time the limits of the various provinces. The Charter Act of 1853 renewed the powers of the company and allowed it to retain possession of the Indian territories. The Act of 1853 marked the beginning of a Parliamentary system in India. No Indian element was associated with the Legislative Council.

Basic Tenets of India’s Foreign Policy (1947-1961)

India emerged as an independent nation on 15th August 1947 and it was an epoch making phenomena for millions of Indian citizens. The Indian government adopted a well thought out and well planned foreign policy after assuming political powers in India.

The basic tenets of India’s foreign policy had been influenced by socio-cultural, economic and political conditions of India and the world. It reflected the rich Indian cultural values and the urges and aspirations of Indian citizens. The policy was based upon the principle of mutual co-existence.

India believes in respecting the identity of other nations and had always been active to preserve her own identity.

Indian Foreign Policy is also characterized by firm belief in the efficacy of peaceful methods to resolve the mutual international differences. India had never supported militarism and never used it as an instrument of foreign policy.

India believes in the principle of equality of nations and had always been against the discrimination among the nations on the basis of geographical size, economic strength and military power.

The spirit of internationalism also characterized the foreign policy. Indian leadership had always believed in the efficacy of closer international cooperation among the nations to ensure the mutual progress.

Non –alignment with any of the power blocks was another important feature of the foreign policy after independence. At the time of Indian independence cold war had already begun within the communist bloc led by Soviet Union and Capitalist bloc by USA.Indian leadership decided to stay away from bloc policies and pursued the politics of non-alignment. India was the founding member of NAM started in 1961.

Indian foreign policy was secular and ideologically neutral.India had never allowed its foreign policy to be dominated by either the capitalist or the communist ideology. India had maintained close cooperation with both the capitalist and communist nations.

Maintaining an independent opinion on international issues had been another important feature of the Foreign policy. India had always cherished her independence and had never allowed its foreign policy to be influenced by either pressure or inducements offered by the powerful nations of the world.

Non-interference in the internal matters of other nations had been basic tenet of Indian Foreign policy ever since India’s independence.

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