HISTORICAL BACKGROUND OF INDIAN CONSTITUTION

Regulating Act of 1773

  • Also known as the Act of Settlement.
  • This Act was based on the report of a committee headed by the British Prime Minister Lord North.
  • The Governor of Bengal was nominated as Governor General for all the three Presidencies of Culcutta, Bombay and Madras. Warren Hasting was the first such Governor General.
  • A Supreme Court was established at Fort William (Calcutta) in 1774 that had one chief justice and three judges.
  • Governor General was empowered to make rules, regulations and ordinances with the consent of the Supreme Court.

Pitt’s India Act of 1784

  • Established a system of double Government.
  • For the first time the company’s territories in India were called British possessions.
  • Indian affairs came under the direct control of the British Government.
  • A new body Board of Control was appointed for managing political matters.
  • The members in the Governor General’s Council were decreased to three.
  • The company was asked to follow the policy of non-intervention.

Charter Act of 1793

  • Main provisions of the previous Acts were consolidated in this Act.
  • Provided for the payment of salaries of the members of the Board of Controllers from Indian revenue.
  • Courts were given the power to interpret rules and regulations.

Charter Act of 1813

  • Trade monopoly of the East India Company came to an end.
  • Powers of the three Councils of Madras, Bombay and Calcutta were enlarged; they were also subjected to greater control of the British Parliament.
  • The Christian Missionaries were allowed to spread their religion in India.
  • Local autonomous bodies were empowered to levy taxes.

Charter Act of 1833

  • The beginning of building a Constitution during the British rule in India.
  • It made the Governor General of Bengal as the Governor General of India. All the civil and military powers, being vested in him.
  • The government of the Governor General was called as the Government of India and his council as the Indian Council.
  • The East India Company was transformed from a commercial body into an administrative body. 
  • Lord William Bentick was the first Governor General of India. 
  • The laws made under this Act were called as Acts. Whereas those made under the previous acts were called as regulations.

Charter Act of 1853 

  • This was the last of the Charter Acts and it made important changes in the system of Indian legislation. 
  • This Act followed a report of the then Governor General Dalhousie for improving the administration of the company. 
  • A separate Governor for Bengal was to be appointed. 
  • Legislative and administrative functions of the Council were separately identified.
  • Recruitment of the Company's employees was to be done through competitive exams. 
  • British Parliament was empowered to put Company's governance of India to an end at any suitable time.

Government of India Act, 1858 

  • British Crown decided to assume sovereignty over India from the East India  company in an apparent consequence of the Revolt of 1857, described as an armed sepoy mutiny by the British historians and remembered as the First War of Independence by the Indians.
  • The first statute for the governance of India, under the direct rule of the British Government, was the Government of India Act, 1858. 
  • It provided for absolute (British) imperial control over India without any popular participation in the administration of the country. 
  • The Powers of the crown were to be exercised by the Secretary of State for India, assisted by a council of fifteen members, known as the Council of India.
  • The country was divided into provinces headed by a Governor or Lieutenant Governor aided by his Executive Council.
  • The Provincial Governments had to function under the superintendence, direction and control of the Governor General in all matters.
  • All the authority for the governance of India was vested in the Governor General in Council who was responsible to the Secretary of State.
  • The Secretary of State was ultimately responsible to the British Parliament.

Indian Councils Act, 1861 

  • First time introduction of the representative institutions in India. 
  • It enabled the Governor General to associate the Indians with the work of legislation by nominating them to his expanded council. 
  • It decentralized the legislative powers of the Governor General's Council. These were vested in the Governments of Bombay and Madras. 
  • It gave the Governor General the power to frame rules for more convenient transaction of business in council. 
  • It accorded the statutory recognition to the portfolio system. 
  • This policy of legislative devolution resulted in almost complete internal autonomy to the provinces in 1937.

Indian Councils Act, 1892 

  • Increase in the number of additional members in the Governor General's Council and in provincial legislative assembly. 
  • Along with the legislative function, the councils were now allowed discussions on the annual financial statement with certain conditions and restrictions. 
  • The members of the Legislative Council continued to be nominated by Governor General and the Governors. But a provision was made to nominate them on the basis of recommendation of organized associations like, Calcutta Chamber of Commerce, Zamindar Association, etc. Thus, this Act made provisions for indirect election for the members of the Legislative Council. 

Indian Councils Act, 1909 

  • This act is known as Morley-Minto Reforms. 
  • The number of members in the Legislative Council both at the center and the provincial level were increased. 
  • The number of members in the Legislative Council was increased to sixty. 
  • Satyendra Prasad Sinha became the first Indian to join the Executive Council of the Viceroy. 
  • At the centre, official members were in majority but in provinces, the non-official members included non-official nominated members as well among them. 
  • For the first time, it was this Act that provided for the separate representation of the Muslim community.
  • The powers of the Legislative Councils were also enhanced. Its members were permitted to vote on them except in case of non-vocable items. 
  • This Act legalised communalism and Lord M into came to be known as the Father of Communal Electorate. 

Government of India Act, 1919 

  • This Act is also known as Montagu-Chelmsford Reforms. 
  • Dyarchy at the provinces was established. The administration subjects were divided into two categories—Central and Provincial. The provincial subjects were further sub-divided into transferred and reserved subjects.
  • There was a relaxation of the central control over the provinces in administrative as well as in legislative and financial matters. 
  • The Governor General was given freedom to nominate as many members to the Executive Council as he desired. The councillors were nominated for five years. > The Central Legislature consisted of two houses. 
  • The Council of States composed of 60 members out of whom 34 were elected. A lower house, named the Legislative Assembly, composed of approximately 144 members of whom 104 were elected. The powers of both the houses were kept equal except that the power to vote supply was given exclusively to the Legislative Assembly.

Government of India Act, 1935 

  • This Act prescribed a federal government considering provinces and princely states as units.
  • The administrative subjects were divided into a federal list, the provincial list, and the concurrent list. 
  • Dyarchy in the provinces was abolished and the provincial autonomy introduced in its place. This introduced responsible government at the provinces. 
  • Dyarchy was adopted at the centre and the federal subjects were divided into the reserved subjects and the transferred subjects. 
  • This Act introduced bicameralism in six out of eleven provinces, comprising a Legislative Assembly and a Legislative Council. The six provinces were Bombay, Bengal, Madras, Bihar, Assam, and the United Provinces. 

Indian Independence Act, 1947 

  • This Act declared India as an independent and sovereign state ending the British rule 
  • It created two independent dominions—India and Pakistan. 
  • The office of the Secretary of State for India was abolished. His functions were transferred to the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Affairs. 
  • It assigned dual function, i.e., Constitutional and Legislative to the Constitutional Assembly formed in 1946. 
  • The office of the Viceroy was abolished and the king appointed a Governor General for each dominion.