CONSTITUTIONAL DEVELOPMENT

Introduction

Events that influenced our constitution and polity during the east India Company rule:

Government of India Act, 1858:

Governor General of India became the Viceroy of India. The board of control and court of directors were abolished and a new office of Secretary of State for India and his Indian council were created. They had supreme power to regulate all affairs.

The companies rule ended and Indian administration came under the direct control of the crown. The court of proprietors was abolished. 

Indian Council Act, 1861:

  1. Allowed nomination of Indians to the central legislative council.
  2. Started a portfolio system for convenient transaction of business.
  3. Viceroy could issue ordinances without consulting the legislative council [lifetime of ordinances = 6 months].
  4. Process of decentralization of legislative powers to the provinces began.
  5. The executive council could conduct legislative business and it would be called central legislative council when it handles legislations. The governor general could nominate non officials to this. Thus entry of Indians was permitted. But the powers of these members were limited.
  6. Similar provisions were made in the provinces. 

Indian Council Act, 1892:

Increased number of non-official members to the central and provincial legislative assemblies.

Official majority was retained; however more powers were granted to members like discussing budget and criticize financial policy of the government.

Certain non official members to the Central legislative assembly were nominated from provinces and Bengal chamber of commerce. Also non official members of the provincial assemblies were nominated from local bodies.

Limited franchise was introduced in India.

Indian Council Act, 1909 [Morley – Minto Reforms]:

Allowed non-official majority in the provinces but not in the central legislative council.

It increased number of members in the legislative councils. The councils could now pass resolutions and discus budget.

Allowed for a system of separate electorate [communal representation] for Muslims.

Indians were for the first time appointed to the Central Executive council. Indians were nominated to the Indian council in London.

Government of India Act, 1919 [Montague and Chelmsford reforms]:

Subjects on which legislation can be made were divided into central and provincial. Provincial were further divided into reserved and transferred. The reserved subjects were administered by Governors of provinces and their executive councils. Transferred subjects were to be administered with the help of ministers responsible to the provincial legislative councils.

The central legislative council was replaced by a bicameral legislature. Majority of members of both houses were non-official and chosen by direct elections.

Central executive council to have 3 Indian members out of six. Made provision for a public service commission.

Granted a limited franchise based on education and property.

Created a statutory body to inquire into and report on the working of the act in 10 years of its coming into force.

Government of India Act, 1935: 

It provided for establishment of All India federation of provinces and princely states. It divided legislative powers into Central, Provincial and Concurrent. Residuary powers were with the viceroy. However, the federation never came into existence as princely states didn’t join it.

It replaced diarchy in provinces with provincial autonomy. At provinces, governor would act with aid and advice of ministers responsible to the provincial legislative councils.

It introduced diarchy at the centre as central subjects were divided into reserved [Viceroy and executive council] and transferred [Viceroy with aid and advice of legislative council]. However this too never became operational.

Provision of a Reserve bank, provincial public service commission and Joint Public Service Commission. Establishment of a federal court. Extended franchise to Indians, separate representation to dalits. Replaced Indian council with an advisory team to the secretary of state.

Indian Independence Act, 1947:  

Ended British rule in India on 15 august 1947.  Abolished viceroy, secretary of state offices. British emperor would no longer be emperor of India. Provision for partition of India into India and Pakistan. Princely states given choice to accede or remain independent. Constituent assemblies to frame constitution for their dominion. GoI Act, 1935 would be enforced till new constitution was ready. Governor General of Centre and provinces would be nominal heads and act on aid and advice of Ministers.


Constituent assembly could enact, repeal, and amend any law. Thus it was made a legislative body too. When it worked a legislative body it was chaired by GV Malwankar till 1949.