Beginning of Crown Rule in India
Beginning of Crown Rule in India. The Revolt of 1857 was not just a mere Sepoy Mutiny but a reflection of the discontent, hatred and accumulated grievances of the Indian people at large against the foreign rule. It clearly indicated that there was a need for change in the way people were administrated.
The Revolt of 1857 was not just a mere Sepoy Mutiny but a reflection of the discontent, hatred and accumulated grievances of the Indian people at large against the foreign rule. It clearly indicated that there was a need for change in the way people were administrated. The British government therefore decided to abolish East India Company and directly rule India. This marked the beginning of Crown Rule in India, from 1858 to 1947; India was ruled by the Crown and enacted the following legislations during its rule:
Government of India Act 1958
This Act was an outcome of the British reaction to the 1857 revolt. Important features of the act:
l It paved way for the Crown rule in India by abolishing the company’s rule and transferring all its territories, powers and functions to the British Parliament.
l It designated the Governor General of India as the Viceroy of India and reduced the Viceroy’s powers by establishing an office of Secretary of State in London, who was ultimately responsible for the administration of India and acted as an intermediary between the British Government in London and the administration in India.
Thus, this act did not alter the way India was administrated as it only focussed on changing the superintendence over Indian administration.
India Councils Act 1861
This Act was a major initiative by the British Government to make significant changes in the way India was administrated. Important features of the act:
l It allowed Indians to be associated with governance by enabling the Viceroy to nominate Indians to his legislative Council.
l It marked the beginning of internal autonomy of provinces by initiating decentralisation by restoring the legislative powers of the Madras and Bombay Governments.
l It also laid foundation for good administrative practices in India by introducing the portfolio system and vesting ordinance making power in the Viceroy.
India Councils Act 1892
The birth of Indian National Congress in 1885 and its subsequent resolutions demanding reforms in administration led to the enactment of this legislation. Important features of the act:
l It paved way for representative form of Government by allowing the head of the Government to nominate certain proportion of members to the council
l It also laid foundations for Parliamentary system of governance by allowing the members in legislatures to ask questions and discuss the budget.
l It further strengthened internal autonomy by enlarging the powers of provincial legislatures.
India Councils Act 1909
To counter the growing support to extremists in Indian national movement and to address the repeated demands of Indian National Congress for greater participation of Indians in the administration of the country, this legislation was enacted. As it was drafted by the then Secretary of State Lord Morley and the then Viceroy Lord Minto, it is also called as Minto-Morley reforms. Important features of the act:
l It strengthened the foundations of Parliamentary form of government by allowing members to ask supplementary questions and to move resolutions on budgets
l It introduced indirect elections by providing for separate representation for Muslims and other bodies like Universities and trade associations. Separate representation for Muslims is called to Communal Award and Lord Minto is known as the father of Communal Award in India. This provision however sowed separatist tendencies on religious basis and played an important role in the partition of India.
Government of India Act 1919
Indian nationalist leaders support in World War I, the Home League movements and an ever growing demand for a responsible government resulted in the enactment of this legislation. As it was drafted by the then Secretary of State Montagu and the then Viceroy Lord Chelmsford, it is also called as Montagu-Chelmsford reforms. Important features of the act:
l It further decentralised governance by dividing the subjects into two lists – Central List and Provincial List which strengthened provincial autonomy.
l It introduced dyarchy
(dual-rule) in provinces by further dividing the provincial subjects into reserved list and transferred list. While the transferred list was administered by the Governor and the Council of ministers, the reserved list was administered by the Governor and his executive council.
l It paved way for a federal structure of Government by dividing Central Legislature into two houses – Upper House and Lower House. Bicameral legislature is an important feature of a federal structure.
l It provided for the appointment of a Commission after 10 years to review its working. However, the commission called Simon Commission was appointed in 1927, two years ahead.
Government of India Act 1935
The 1929 Lahore session of Congress Poorna Swaraj Resolution and subsequent developments – round table conferences and the Civil Disobedience Movement – led to the enactment of this act which aimed at introducing a fully responsible government in India. Important features of the act:
l It envisaged a federal form of government in India by providing for
l Division of powers between the centre and the states into three lists – Central List, Provincial List and Concurrent List.
l Establishment of a Federal Court to resolve disputes between Centre and provinces and between provinces.
l It further strengthened Parliamentary form of Governance by allowing the legislatures to exercise control over legislature through voting on nearly 80 per cent of provisions of the budget and through no confidence motions.
l It withdrew dyarchy from the provinces and introduced it at the Centre.
India Independence Act 1947
This act is a result of the declaration on end of British rule in India by the then British Prime Minister Clement Atlee and the acceptance of the Mountbatten Plan by the Congress and the Muslim League. Important features of the act:
l It ended British rule in India and transferred all the powers of British Parliament with regard to India to the Constituent Assembly in India.
This era was thus characterised with decentralisation and the legislations made during this time laid strong foundations for a federal structure and Parliamentary form of Government in India.
(Next week – Making of the Constitution)