Constitutional Developments between 1857 to 1952

20/04/2024 0 By indiafreenotes

The period between 1857 and 1952 was a critical phase in the constitutional development of India, marked by a series of legislative acts by the British Parliament. These acts not only structured the administrative framework of India under British rule but also laid the foundational elements that would later influence the Constitution of independent India.

Government of India Act, 1858

This Act was promulgated following the Indian Rebellion of 1857. It abolished the East India Company and transferred the responsibilities of government, territories, and revenues to the British Crown.

  • Significance:

It established the office of the Secretary of State for India, vested with complete authority and control over Indian administration, and the office of the Viceroy of India, as the direct representative of the Crown in India.

Indian Councils Act, 1861

This Act marked the beginning of the legislative reforms by reintroducing the legislative councils. It expanded the Viceroy’s Council for the purpose of making laws, with the inclusion of Indian members for the first time.

  • Significance:

It initiated a consultative mechanism by allowing the Viceroy to appoint Indian representatives to the councils, providing a platform for Indian voices, albeit limited.

Indian Councils Act, 1892

This Act further expanded the legislative councils and increased the involvement of Indians in governance.

  • Significance:

It allowed the councils to discuss budgets and address questions to the executive. Although it did not grant significant legislative powers, it paved the way for a greater consultative process in legislative procedures.

Indian Councils Act, 1909 (Morley-Minto Reforms)

This Act is significant for introducing a limited form of representation for Indians.

  • Significance:

It expanded the size of legislative councils and introduced the principle of elections for the first time. It also introduced separate electorates based on religion, thereby institutionalizing communal divisions within the political process.

Government of India Act, 1919 (Montagu-Chelmsford Reforms)

Post World War I, this Act was introduced to expand participation of Indians in government.

  • Significance:

It introduced a dual government system (‘dyarchy’), where elected Indian ministers managed certain departments like agriculture and education, while others like finance and police remained under British control. It expanded the legislative assemblies and widened the franchise.

Government of India Act, 1935

This was the most significant legislation before the Constitution of India, providing a detailed administrative framework.

  • Significance:

It abolished dyarchy and introduced provincial autonomy, expanded provincial legislatures, and introduced a federal structure (though never fully implemented). It also established a Federal Court, which laid the groundwork for the future Supreme Court of India.

Indian Independence Act, 1947

Passed in July 1947, this Act marked the legal foundation of the partition of India and the creation of Pakistan.

  • Significance:

It ended British rule in India, set August 15, 1947, as the date of independence, and granted both India and Pakistan the status of dominions under the British Commonwealth with the right to withdraw.