Charter Act 1833

Charter Act 1833

Charter Act 1833

Background of Act

  • The Charter Act of 1833 came under the backdrop of great changes that had taken place in Great Britain because of the Industrial Revolution.
  • Laissez-faire was accepted as the principle of the government’s attitude towards industrial enterprise.
  • The liberal movement resulted in the Reform Act of 1832.
  • In this atmosphere of liberalism and reforms, the Parliament was called upon to renew the Charter in 1833.

About the Act

  • It is also known as the Saint Helena Act 1833 or the Government of India Act 1833.
  • Control of the island of Saint Helena was transferred from the East India Company to the Crown.
  • It was passed by the British Parliament to renew the Charter Act of 1813 of the East India Company.
  • This act renewed the charter of the EIC for 20 years.
  • The East India Company was deprived of its commercial privileges.
  • The Company’s monopoly over trade except for tea and trade with China was ended as a result of Laissez-Faire and the continental system of Napoleon Bonaparte.

Features of the Charter Act of 1833

Office of Governor General:

  • The Governor-General of Bengal became the Governor-General of India with exclusive legislative powers.
  • The presidencies of Bombay and Madras were deprived of their legislative powers.
  • The Governor-General of India was given civil and military powers.
  • The Government of India was created for the first time having the authority over the entire territorial area possessed by the British in India.
  • The First Governor-General of India was Lord William Bentick.

Governor General Council:

  • The members of the Governor General’s council were reduced by the Pitt’s India Act 1784 was again increased to 4.
  • The fourth member had very limited powers, he was not entitled to act as a member of the council except for legislative purposes.
  • The Governor General Council had the authority to amend, repeal, or alter any law in the entire length and breadth of India for any British, Foreigner, or Indian.

Administrative Body (EIC):

  • The activities of East India Company as a commercial body came to an end. The company purely became an administrative body.
  • The company’s territories in India were to be held by it “in trust for his Majesty, his heirs and successors”.

Attempt to Open Civil Services:

  • The act attempted to introduce a system of open competition for selection in Civil Services.
    • It stated that Indians should not be debarred from holding any place, office, or employment under the company.
    • It was nullified after opposition from the Court of Directors.
    • The concept of a merit-based modern Civil Service in India was introduced on the recommendations of Lord Macaulay’s Report in 1854.
  • Legal British Colony: The Act permitted the English to settle freely in India. It effectively legalized the British Colonization of India.

Ended Slavery:

  • Slavery existed in India at that time, and the act provided for the mitigation of slavery in India.
  • Slavery was abolished by the British Parliament in Britain and all its possessions in 1833

Law Commission:

  • The Indian Law Commission was established in 1833 and Lord Macaulay was made its first chairman. It aimed to codify all kinds of laws in India.
  • The Act provided that the laws made in India were supposed to be laid in the British Parliament.

Significance of the Act

  • It elevated the Governor General of Bengal to the Governor General of India and consolidated and centralized the administration of India.
  • It made the East India Company a trustee of the crown in the field of administration.
  • The Act provided to freely admit Indians into administration in the country.
  • The Act separated the legislative functions of the Governor General in Council from the executive functions.
  • The law commission under Lord Macaulay codified the laws.

Related Links:

Pitt’s India Act 1784Regulating Act of 1773
The Places of Worship Act 1991Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA)