The Acts passed before the Formation of Indian Constitution

In India, the British Government passed various laws and acts before the formulation of the constitution. The Regulating Act of 1773 was enacted as a first step to regulate the working of East India Company. However, the Indian Independence Act, 1947 finally ended the British rule in India and declared India as an independent and sovereign nation with effect from August 15, 1947.

The Acts passed before the Constitution

Below mentioned are some of the significant and consequential acts:

The Regulating Act, 1773

The Regulating Act of 1773 was enacted as a first step to regulate the working of East India Company.

• A collegiate government was formed in Bengal consisting of the Governor General, who was vested civil and military powers.
• A Supreme Court was established in Bengal comprising of a chief justice and three other judges

Pitts’s India Act, 1784

This Act was a further extension of the control of the British Government over the company affairs.

• Board of control was established to control the civil, military and revenue affairs of the company
• The Court of Proprietors was no more empowered to revoke or suspend the resolution of the directors approved by the Board of Control

Charter Act of 1833

The act focused on centralization of powers.

• The Governor General of Bengal was made the Governor General of India. The first Governor General of India was William Bentinck.
• He was given legislative powers over the entire India including the Governors of Bombay and Madras.
• The company lost the status of a commercial body and was made purely an administrative body.
• A Law Commission was set up to consolidate and codify Indian Laws.

Charter Act of 1853

Due to vastness of British Empire in India, the demands for decentralization increased not only in India but also in Britain. Under these circumstances the Charter Act of 1853 was enacted.

• It brought out separation in the legislative and executive functions of the Governor-General’s council.
• Access to compete civil services for Indians.
• Local representation of 4 members was provided in the Central Legislative Council.

Government of India Act, 1858

The rule and aggressive territorial policies of East India Company in India led to resentment among the aristocrats and ruling class in India, which resulted in the revolt of 1857.

• India was to be governed by and in the name of crown through Viceroy, who would be the representative of crown in India. The designation of Governor General of India was changed to Viceroy. Thus, Governor General Lord Canning became the first Viceroy of India
• Board of Control and Board of directors were abolished transferring all their powers to British Crown
•  A new office ‘secretary of state was created with a 15 member council of India to assist him. Indian Councils Act, 1861
The major focus of the act was on administration in India. It was the first step to associate   Indians to legislation.
• The act provided that the viceroy should nominate some Indians as non-official members in legislative council.
• The legislative powers of Madras and Bombay presidencies were restored.
• It provided for the establishment of legislative councils for Bengal, North-Western Frontier Province (NWFP) and Punjab.
• Viceroy was empowered to issue ordinances during an emergency without the concurrence of the legislative council.

Indian Councils Act, 1892

• The number of non official members was increased in both the central and provincial legislative councils
• The functions of the legislature increased, which gave the members the right to ask questions or discuss on budget matters.

Indian Councils Act, 1909, (Morley-Minto reforms)

• The number of members in central and provincial legislative councils was increased.
• It provided for the association of Indians in the executive council of the Viceroy and Governors. Satyendra Prasad Sinha joined the Viceroy's executive council as a law member.
• It introduced Separate Electorate for Muslims.

Government of India Act, 1919

The act is also known as Montague-Chelmsford Reforms.

• The act set up bicameral legislatures at the centre consisting of two houses- the Council of the States (Upper House) and the Central Legislative Assembly (Lower House).
• The central and provincial subjects were demarcated and separated.
• The Provincial subjects were further divided into Transferred Subjects and Reserved Subjects, the legislative council had no say in the latter. This was known as the system of Diarchy.
• The principle of separate electorate was further extended to Sikhs, Indian Christians, Anglo-Indians and Europeans.
• It provided for the appointment of a statutory commission to report the working of the act after ten years.

Government of India Act, 1935

• The powers between centre and states were divided in terms of Federal list, Provincial list and Concurrent list.
• Dyarchy in the provinces was abolished.
• Diarchy was adopted at the centre with Transferred and Reserved subjects (such as defence, administration of tribal areas etc).
• The legislature of Bengal, Bombay, Madras, Bihar, Assam and United province were made bicameral. Bicameral legislature consisted of a Legislative Council and a Legislative Assembly.
• The principle of Separate Electorate was extended to depressed classes, women and workers.
• Provided for the formation of Reserve bank of India

Indian Independence Act, 1947

The act formalized the Lord Mountbatten Plan regarding independence of India on June 3, 1947.

• The Act ended the British rule in India and declared India as an independent and sovereign nation with effect from August 15, 1947.
• Provided for the partition of India into two dominions of India and Pakistan
• The office of Viceroy was abolished and a Governor General was to be appointed in each of the dominion
• The Constituent Assemblies of the two dominions were to have powers to legislate for their respective territories.
• Princely states were free to join any of the two dominions or to remain independent.


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