Constitutional development of India since 18th century
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The development of the Indian Constitution has its root in British rule. The events happened during the rule of Britishers in India has greatly influenced the architecture of Independent Indian Constitution. The Chronological order of Constitutional development of India since the 18th century happened has been discussed below in this post.

Regulating Act 1773:

This is the first step taken by the British Government in India to check and regulate the East India Company in India.

1. Supreme Court established in Calcutta

2. Governor-General of Bengal established with subordinate presidencies of Bombay and Madras. Warren Hastings was the First Governor-General of Bengal.

3. Strengthen Court of Directors (Governing body of Company) and prohibited private trade of Company’s servants and taking bribe from natives.

Pitts India Act 1784:

William Pitts was then the Prime Minister of Britain and became the Youngest Prime Minister of England at the age of 24 years.

Pitts India Act 1784 was brought to curb and control the activities of the Company.

1. Distinguished the Commercial affairs and Political affairs of the Company.

2. Board of Control empowered to supervise Political affairs such as civil and military affairs whereas, the Court of Directors allowed to manage Commercial affairs.

3. This Act gave the British Government supreme control over the Company’s affairs.

The Charter Act of 1833:

1. The Governor-General of Bengal was made to Governor-General of India and was given exclusive power over the British Indian Territories. The first Governor-General of India was William Benedick. 

2. The East India Company was reduced to as an administrative body under the British Government. The laws made under this act is called Acts and the laws under previous acts were called Regulations.

3. The attempt was made to bring participation of Indian in civil service examination but opposed by the Court of Directors.

The Charter Act of 1853:

1. The first time the Legislative Council and Executive Council of the Governor-General of India was separated. The Governor-General’s Legislative Council was called ‘Indian (Central) Legislative Council‘.

2. The East India Company was allowed to retain the possession of Indian Territories under the British Crown

3. The open selection and recruitment of Civil servants and opened for Indians also was introduced the first time. The first Committee was formed Macaulay Committee – The Committee on Indian Civil Service.

The Government of India Act of 1858:

This act was the consequence of the first war of Independence happened in India at large scale called ‘Sepoy Mutiny‘ The British Government abolished the East India Company and transferred all matters of civil, military and revenue to the British Crown.

1. The designation of Governor-General of India changed to Viceroy of India and the first Viceroy of India was Lord Canning.

2. A new office of Secretary of State was created and empowered with all matters related to Indian administrative. The Secretary of State was the member of the British Cabinet and responsible to the British Government.

Indian Councils Act of 1861:

1. This act empowered the Viceroy to nominate some Indian members as non-official members to the Legislative Council.

2. The process of decentralization of powers started. The Separate councils for Bombay and Madras Presidencies were established.

3. The first time ‘Portfolio System‘ was started. The Viceroy allotted the one or more departments to the members of Viceroy’s Council.

4. It empowered the Viceroy to issue Ordinance without the concurrence of Council and validity of ordinance will be six months.

Indian Councils Act of 1892:

1. This act increased the number of Non-official members to the Legislative Council but still, official members were in majority.

2. The Viceroy can nominate non-official members in the Central Legislative Council with the recommendation of Provincial legislative of councils and Bengal Chamber of Trade.

3. It empowered the legislative councils to discuss budget and questions to the Executives.

Indian Councils Act of 1909:

This act was also known as Morley-Minto Reforms, 1909.

Lord John Morley was the Secretary of State and Lord Minto was then Viceroy of India.

1. It considerably increased the size of Legislative Councils, both Central and Provincial. But, retaining the majority of official members.

2. It increased the functions of legislative councils – allowed the members to ask questions, move resolutions, resolutions on Budget.

3. The first time a separate electorate was introduced known as The Communal Electorate. It allows the election of Muslim members which can only be elected by the Muslims.

4. It also brought separate representatives of presidency corporations, chamber of commerce & zamindars.

The Government of India Act of 1919:

The Government of India Act of 1919, was also known as ‘Montagu – Chelmsford Reforms 1919′.

1. The Dyarchy system was introduced. It not only separated the subjects for Provincial and Central legislatures to make law but also divided the Provincial Subjects into two – Transferred subjects and Reserved Subjects.

2. The Transferred subjects were to administrative by the Governor with its council responsible to the legislative council and the Reserved Subjects were to administrative by the Governor with its council without being responsible to the legislative council.

3. It replaced the Legislative Council with the bicameral legislature known as Bicameralism. It introduced the Upper House and the Lower House.

4. It extended the separate electorate to the Sikhs, Anglo-Indian, Indian Christians, and Europeans.

5. It allowed the provincial councils to enact their own budget.

6. The setup for the Central Public Service Commission was approved. The Central Public Service Commission was established in 1926.

The Government of India Act of 1935:

The Government of India Act, 1935 was considered as the most important and the reflection of its can be seen in the Constitution of Independent India.

1. It provided the abolition of dyarchy system at the provincial level but introduced it at the Central Level.

2. It separated the subjects of Central and Provincial into three lists- Federal List; Provincial List; and the Concurrent List.

3. It introduced the bicameralism to the six provinces – Bengal, Bihar, Assam, Madras, Bombay, and United Provinces.

4. It extended the separate electorate to the Scheduled Castes, Women, and Labours

5. It introduced the establishment of Reserve Bank of India to control the currency and credit of the country, and establishment of Federal Court which was set up in 1937.

Therefore, the separate subject introduced in this act can be seen in the present Constitution of India incorporated in Schedule-7.

Cabinet Mission 1946:

After successful of Quit India Movement in 1942, the British Government agreed to transfer of power to the Indian Leadership.

The then Prime Minister of Britain, Clement Attlee and the Secretary of State, Sir Stafford Cripps, and Viceroy of India, Lord Wavell decided the transfer of power to the Indians.

The mission proposed a complicated system for India with three tiers: –

  1. The provinces, provincial groupings, and the center. The center’s power was to be confined to foreign affairs, defense, currency, and communications.
  2. The provinces would keep all the other powers and be allowed to establish three groups. The plan’s main characteristic was the grouping of provinces. Two groups would be constituted by the mainly-Muslim western and eastern provinces.
  3. The third group would comprise the mostly-Hindu areas in the south and the center, such as UP, CP, Bombay, Bihar, and Madras; Group B would comprise Sind, Punjab, Northwest Frontier, and Baluchistan; Bengal and Assam would make up Group C.

India Independence Act 1947:

The then Prime Minister, Clement Attlee announced that the British Rule will end in India and transfer of power will be done by 30th June 1948.

Mountbatten plan was introduced to make a separate province on the urge of Muslim League known as Pakistan. Both Congress and the Muslim League agreed on this plan.

1. This act ended the British Rule in India and declared India as an Independent and Sovereign State from 15th, August 1947.

2. There will be two dominions of India and Pakistan with the right to secede from the British Commonwealth.

3. It proclaimed the lapse of British paramountcy over princely states, the abolishment of office of Secretary of State, Viceroy and dropped the title of Emperor of India from the royal titles of the king of England.

4. It empowered the Constituent Assembly of the two dominions to frame and adopt a new constitution for their respective nations and to repeal any act of the British Parliament. But, it cannot be forced on the states which are not ready to join either of the dominions.

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