Company Rule (1773-1858)

The company rule (1773-1858): During this time, various acts were passed the British parliament to control and supervise the activities of the East India Company (EIC). The company rule ended in 1858 in the aftermath of Sepoy Mutiny. Since then, the British Parliament took over the responsibility of administering India.

Regulating act, 1773

    • It designated the Governor of Bengal as the ‘Governor-General of Bengal’
    • It created an executive council (Not to be confused with legislative council) of four members to assist the governor-general of Bengal. The first such general was Warren Hastings
    • It made the governors of Madras and Mumbai presidencies subordinate to the governor-general of Bengal (centralizing tendency started from this act)
    • Supreme Court was established at Calcutta (1774). It had one chief justice and three other judges
    • Barring servants of the company from engaging in private trade and accepting bribes
    • Court of directors of EIC were required to report on revenue, civil and military affairs in India

Importance of this act

    • First step taken by British government to control and regulate the affairs of EIC
    • Recognized for the first time, the political and administrative functions of the company
    • Laid the foundation of central administration in India

Amending act of 1781

  • It was also known as the Declaratory act, 1781
  • The act was primarily passed to rectify the defects associated with the regulating act

Important features of the act are:

    • Jurisdiction of the Supreme court was restricted just to Calcutta
    • Civil servants working in their official capacity, revenue collectors, judicial officers were exempted from the jurisdiction of the court
    • Appeals from provincial courts were to be taken to the Governor-General-in-council
    • Under the Regulating Act, the Governor General in Council was empowered to issue rules, ordinances and regulations but they were to be registered in the Supreme Court.

Importance of the act: It was the first attempt in India towards separation of the executive from the judiciary by defining the respective areas of jurisdiction

Pitt’s India Act of 1784

  • It distinguished between political and commercial functions of the company
  • Double government: Created a new Board of Directors to manage the political affairs while commercial affairs were managed by the court of directors of EIC
  • Board of Directors was empowered to supervise and direct all operations of the civil and military government or revenues of the British possessions in India

Importance of the act

  • First time company’s possession was called as British possessions
  • British government was given the supreme control over Company’s affairs and its administration in India

Charter Act of 1813

  • Background: Napoleonic wars and the miseries it caused prompted the traders to pressurize the government to end the monopoly in trade that EIC enjoyed
  • Features of the act
  • The company’s rule was extended to another 20 years.
  • British merchants were allowed to trade in India under a strict licensing system under the Charter Act of 1813. However, trade with China and the tea and opium trade, the company still retained its monopoly.
  • It provided for a financial grant towards the revival of Indian literature and the promotion of science.
  • The company was asked to take up a greater role in the education of the Indians under them. It was to set aside Rs.1 Lakh for this purpose.
Did you know?

The act permitted Christian missionaries to propagate English and preach their religion.

Charter act of 1833

  • It made the governor-general of Bengal as governor general of India. All civil and military powers were vested in him
  • Lord William Bentinck was first governor-general of India
  • It deprived the governor of Bombay and Madras to make laws. All law making powers now vested with Governor-General of India
  • Ended the commercial activities of EIC completely
  • Attempted to introduce a system of open competition for selection of civil servants. This was opposed by Court of Directors
  • The laws made under previous acts were called regulations. However, since the passage of this act, it came to be known as Acts
  • An Indian Law Commission was appointed under the provisions of the act. Lord Macaulay was the first chairman of this commission
  • The act provided for the Presidency of Bengal to be divided into the Presidencies of Agra and Fort William. However, this never came into effect
  • The British Parliament abolished slavery in Britain and all its possessions in 1833.

Importance of the act

  • Centralization of the administration reached new heights
  • Codification of laws was taken up for the first time
  • It acknowledged the need to involve Indians in administration

Charter Act of 1853

  • It provided for the separation of executive and legislative functions of the council
  • It provided for the addition of six new member for legislative council (Indian Central legislative council)
  • Civil service was thrown open to Indians
  • Local representation in the Indian central legislative council (Bombay, Agra, Madras, Bengal)
  • The Court of Directors could create a new presidency or province.
  • The Act provided for the appointment of a separate governor for the Bengal Presidency.

Importance of this act

  • Though it extended the authority of EIC, no time was provided for its rule. This meant the rule of EIC could be terminated whenever British Parliament wanted to
  • The Macaulay Committee on Civil Service appointed in 1854
  • Establishment of a dedicated rule-making body