Historical development of Indian Constitution Part 1

This article traces the historical development of Indian Constitution.

Indian constitution is a culmination of various regulations and acts passed by British Parliament during the British Rule of India. 

Regulating Act of 1773

First act in the history of rule by East India Company. The British Parliament sought to regulate and control the activities of the company,whose rise had caused uneasiness among British ruling class.

  1. The Court of Directors (officials of the company) were required to report their revenues to British Parliament. Their term of office was also restricted to 4 years.
  2. It designated Governor of Bengal as Governor-General of Bengal. Consequently,Warren Hastings became the first governor-general of Bengal.
  3. An executive-council of four members, for advising the governor-general was established. It is to be noted that no separate legislative council was in place.
  4. This Act introduced the centralizing tendency of rule. It subordinated the governors of Madras and Bombay to governor-general of Bengal.
  5. The Act prohibited company officials of private trade/dastaks with the natives.
  6. Set up Supreme Court in Bengal. British judges from Britain were to administer justice here.

Pitts India Act,1784 (East India Company Act)

Unsatisfied with the previous and in want of addressing the shortcomings of Act 1773,Pitts India Act was enacted which sought to bring the Company Rule under the British Parliament.

  1. Bifurcated the command into Court of Directors for managing commercial affairs (under the company) and Board of Control for political affairs (reporting to British Parliament). Thereby,distinguishing between commercial and political functions of the two.
  2. Indian territories were for the first time called “British possessions in India”.
  3. Reduced the strength of executive council to three members.
  4. Further depriving Governors of Bombay and Madras of their powers,Governor had all the say in revenue,war and diplomacy.

Charter Act,1813

  1. East India Company’s monopoly of Indian trade came to an end. However,they retained exclusive rights to trade in China.
  2. Christian missionaries were officially allowed to preach in India.
  3. A financial provision of investing Rs. 1 lakh by the company for education of Indians was made. However,even the paltry sum remained a distant dream!

Charter Act of 1833

This act cemented the centralization that had started with Regulating Act,1733.

  1. Made Governor-General of Bengal as Governor-General of India and vested in all the military and civil powers. Thus,was created a Government of India having powers all over the Indian territories.
  2. Carrying the centralization further,the Governors of Bombay and Madras were deprived of their legislative powers,which were now to be vested with the Governor-General of India.
  3. East India Company’s activities as a commercial body,came to an end and became an administrative body.
  4. This act attempted to introduce open competition for selection civil servants and debarred that no Indian should be discriminated in holding a position under the Company. However,this novel idea never materialized.

Charter Act,1953

  1. Separated the executive and legislative functions of the Governor-General of India who was now to exercise his legislative powers through a council of legislative members, creating a Mini-Parliament.
  2. Threw open the Civil Services to Indians. To fulfill the same, Macaulay Committee was set up.
  3. Introduced local representation in the legislative council of the Governor, where among the 6 members,4 were to be appointed by the local government.


Historical development of Indian Constitution Part 2 we will discuss the Acts that came into being post 1857 till 1947.







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