General Studies IIConstitutionHistorical Background

Indian Councils Act of 1861

Historical Background-

  1. After the War of Independence, Sir Syed Ahmed Khan advised the British Government to take Indian nationals into the administration of India. He argued in his pamphlet The Causes of the Indian Revolt that the failure of the British to admit Indians into the Legislative Council, prevented them from having any say in government policies that touched them directly and was the major cause behind the revolt.
  2. To consider ways and means of establishing closer contacts with the public opinion in  the country British parliament enacted three acts Indian Councils Acts of 1861, of 1892 and of 1909.

Provisions of The Indian Councils Act of 1861  

  • The Indian Councils Act of 1861 is an important landmark  constitutional and political history of India because of two main reason

  1. First, it enabled the Viceroy to associate representatives of the Indian people with work of legislation by nominating them to his expanded council. In 1862, Lord Canning, the then viceroy, nominated three Indians to his legislative council— the Raja of Benaras, the Maharaja of Patiala and Sir Dinkar Rao
  2. Secondly, it decentralized the legislature powers of the Governor-General’s Council and vested them in the Governments of Bombay and Madras

  • Portfolio system : First time portfolio system started; each member of Viceroys Council was allocated portfolio of particular department was authorized to issue final orders on behalf of the council on matters of his department. Any bill related to public revenue or debt, military, religion or foreign affairs could not be passed without the Governor-General’s assent.
  • This Act restored the legislative powers of the Governor-in-Councils of the Presidencies of Madras and Bombay.
  • Emergency: The Viceroy  was authorized to exercise a veto and issue ordinances in a situation of emergency with the life of such an ordinance was six month.
  • New provinces could also be created for legislative purposes and Lieutenant Governors be appointed for them.
  • New legislative councils: Bengal (1862),  North-Western Frontier Province (NWFP) (1866)and Punjab (1897)

Source: M. Laxmikant

THE COMPANY RULE (1773–1858)THE CROWN RULE (1858–1947)
1. Regulating Act of 17731. Government of India Act of 1858
2. Pitt’s India Act of 17842. Indian Councils Act of 1861
3. Charter Act of 18333. Indian Councils Act of 1892
4. Charter Act of 18534. Indian Councils Act of 1909
 5. Government of India Act of 1919
 6. Government of India Act of 1935
 7. Indian Independence Act of 1947


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