Charter Act of 1853: Main features
The Charter Act of 1853 empowered the British East India Company to retain the territories and the revenues in India in trust for the crown not for any specified period as preceding Charter Acts had provided but only until Parliament should otherwise direct. This was framed on the basis of reports made by the select committees of enquiry in 1852. Raja Ram Roy Mohan Roy England visit and petitions of Bombay Association and Madras Native Association these two events resulted into the Charter Act of 1853.
Features of the Act
1. It separated, for the first time, the legislative and executive functions of the Governor- General’s council. It provided for addition of six new members called legislative councillors to the council. In other words, it established a separate Governor-General’s legislative council which came to be known as the Indian (Central) Legislative Council. This legislative wing of the council functioned as a mini-Parliament, adopting the same procedures as the British Parliament. Thus, legislation, for the first time, was treated as a special function of the government, requiring special machinery and special process.
2. It introduced an open competition system of selection and recruitment of civil servants. The covenanted civil service was thus thrown open to the Indians also. Accordingly, the Macaulay Committee (the Committee on the Indian Civil Service) was appointed in 1854.
3. It extended the Company’s rule and allowed it to retain the possession of Indian territories on trust for the British Crown. But, it did not specify any particular period, unlike the previous Charters. This was a clear indication that the Company’s rule could be terminated at any time the Parliament liked.
4. It introduced, for the first time, local representation in the Indian (Central) Legislative Council. Of the six new legislative members of the governor-general’s council, four members were appointed by the local (provincial) governments of Madras, Bombay, Bengal and Agra.