Evolution of Indian Constitution: Part 2
Administrative & Legislative Reforms (1857-1909)
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 if the crown were to 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:
- This is an important landmark in the constitutional history of India. By the Act, 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 Secretary of State, who was responsible to the British Parliament, governed India through the Governor General, assisted by an Executive council.
- This Act enabled the Governor General to associate representatives of the Indian people with the work of legislation by nominating them to his expanded council.
- This Act provided that the Governor General’s Executive Council should include certain additional non-official members also while transacting legislative business as a Legislative Council. But this Legislative Council was neither representative nor deliberative in any sense.
- It decentralized the legislative powers of the Governor General’s Council and vested them in the Governments of Bombay and Madras.
Indian Councils Act, 1892:
- The non-official members of the Indian Legislative Council were to be nominated by the Bengal Chamber of Commerce and the Provincial Legislative Councils while the non-official members of the Provincial Councils were to be nominated by certain local bodies such as universities, district boards, municipalities, zamindaars, etc.
- The councils were to have the power of discussing the Budget and addressing questions to the Executive.
Morley-Minto Reforms and the Indian Councils Act, 1909:
- Reforms recommended by the then Secretary of States for India (Lord Morley) and the Viceroy (Lord Minto) were implemented by the Indian Councils Act, 1909.
- The maximum number of additional members of the Indian Legislative Council was raised from 16 (under the Act of 1892) to 60 (excluding the Executive Councillors.)
- The size of Provincial Legislative Councils was enlarged by including elected non-official members so that the official majority was gone.
- An element of election was also introduced in the Legislative Council at the center also but here the official majority was gone.
- The Legislative Councils were empowered to move resolutions on the Budget, and on any matter of public interest, except certain specified subjects, such as the Armed forces, Foreign Affairs and the Indian States.
- It provided, for the first time, for separate representation of the Muslim community and thus sowed the seeds of separatism.