Legislations in British India Part 2

In the one of the previous articles (named “Legislations in British India – Part 1”) I have discussed about the acts passed by the British Parliament when company was in charge of administration.

Post 1857, after sepoy mutiny, British took the administration into its hands directly and rule came to be called British Raj. The transition happened through the act called, Act for the betterment of India or Government of India Act 1858.

Government of India Act 1858


The Company’s territories in India were transferred to the Crown under the Queen and the Company’s powers ceased.

Secretary of State replaced the Court of Directors. A council of 15 members was appointed to aid him in decision making.

The Crown appointed Governor General who now came to be called Viceroy and Governors for the presidencies.

This Act led the basis for the subsequent legislations and the overall structure remained the same with some changes in the number of council member through the Acts called Indian Councils Act. Three legislations in this regard were

A. Indian Councils Act 1861

B. Indian Councils Act 1892

C. Indian Councils Act 1909 also called Morley-Minto Reforms.

Indian Councils Act 1861


1. It gave the representation for the Indians in the law making process albeit minimal and they were only nominated members that too as the non official members, at least the process started with this Act. The first three members were the Raja of Benaras, the Maharaja of Patiala and Sir Dinkar Rao.

2. The process of centralization which began with the Act of 1773 and reached its pinnacle by 1833 Charter Act, started to devolve with 1861 Act, i.e., the decentralization process started with some legislative powers to Bombay and Madras Presidencies.

3. It provided for new legislatives councils for Bengal, North West Frontier Province and Punjab which were established in 1862, 1866 and 1897 respectively.

4. It empowered Viceroy to promulgate ordinances in case of emergency without the concurrence of legislative council. The life of such an ordinance was 6 months. Also empowered Viceroy to make rules for convenient transactions of business and recognized the ‘portfolio’ system introduced by Lord Canning in 1859.

Indian Councils Act 1892


1. It increased the number of non-official members in Central and provincial legislature, but maintained the official majority in them.

2. It provided for the right to discuss the budget but wouldn’t let vote on it. And also gave the power to ask questions.

3. It provided for the nomination for members to legislative council.

At Central Legislative Council by the viceroy on the recommendation of Provincial legislative councils.

At Provincial level, by Governors on the recommendations of district boards, municipalities, universities, traders, Zamindars, and chambers.

Indian Councils Act 1909


1. It provided for considerable increase in the number of members in the Legislatives Councils. At the Central level from 16 to 60. At provincial level the number wasn’t uniform

2. It maintained the official majority at central level but at provincial level non official majority was allowed.

3. It enlarged the deliberative functions of members in the legislatures, like members were now allowed to ask supplementary questions, move resolutions and so on.

4. It provided for the association of Indians in the Viceroy’s executive council and Satyendra Prasad Sinha became the first Indian to be a member (as a law member) of it, subsequently he was addressed as Lord Sinha and was made Governor of a province.

5. It provided for the communal representation for Muslims by providing the separate electorate. Lord Minto came to be known as the Father of Communal Electorate.

6. It provided for the separate representation of presidency corporations, chambers of commerce and Universities.

Note: More legislations to be explained in Part 3.

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