Government of India Act 1858

Government of India Act 1858

Government of India Act 1858


  • Through Military Conquests, Alliances, and Economic Exploitation, the Company gradually increased its Influence over Indian Areas. 
  • However, the Indian Rebellion of 1857 highlighted the Company’s administration’s flaws and prompted a rethinking of British objectives in India. 
  • The rebellion, sparked by grievances among Indian sepoys and civilians, constituted a serious challenge to British rule, compelling the British Crown to act and pass the Government of India Act 1858.

Provisions of Government of India Act 1858

  • Liquidation of the East India Company: The Act resulted in the collapse of the East India Company and the transfer of control of Indian colonies to the British Crown.
  • Governance in the Name of the British Queen: The Act stated that the British Indian possessions would be administered in the name of Queen Victoria, who would later become Empress of India.   
  • Scrapping of the Court of Directors and Board of Control:  The powers previously held by the Company’s Court of Directors were transferred to the Secretary of State for India, who was to be a member of the British Parliament and a member of the Prime Minister’s cabinet.  
  • Introduction of the Secretary of State and Council: The Secretary of State for India was in charge of communication between the British and Indian governments. The Secretary of State had enormous powers and could dispatch secret despatches to India without consulting the council. He was assisted by a council of 15 members.
  • Appointment of Governor-General and Viceroy: The Act established the positions of Governor-General and Viceroy, who functioned as the British government’s representative in India. To minimize problems, both jobs were united.
  • Establishment of the Executive Council: The Viceroy was to be helped by an Executive Council in carrying out British India’s administrative tasks.
  • Abolition of Dual Government and the Doctrine of Lapse: The Act repealed the Pitt’s India Act’s dual government system and removed the doctrine of lapse, which permitted the British to conquer states without a male heir.   
  • Introduction of Indian Civil Services:  The Act provided for the foundation of the Indian Civil Services, which were tasked with administering the country. Indians were also permitted to join the military.    
  • Status of Indian Princes and Chiefs:  More than 560 Indian princes and chiefs were allowed to retain their independence as long as they recognized British suzerainty.

Features of the Government of India Act 1858

  • Transfer of Power: The Government of India Act 1858 transferred the governance of India from the British East India Company to the British Crown. India became a formal possession of the British Crown, and the British government assumed direct control over India.
  • Governor-General: The Act established the office of the Secretary of State for India and the Viceroy of India. The Viceroy was appointed by the British Crown and served as the representative of the British monarch in India. The Governor-General of India became the Viceroy.
  • Indian Civil Services: The Act introduced the Indian Civil Services (ICS), which were open to Indians through competitive examinations. The ICS became a prestigious administrative service.
  • Legislative Councils: The Act expanded the role of legislative councils. It allowed for the creation of legislative councils at the provincial (presidency) level, where laws could be made, amended, or repealed. These councils included both official and non-official members.
  • Indian Representation: While the Act introduced legislative councils, Indian representation was limited and did not reflect the broader Indian population. The majority of members were British officials.
  • Financial Control: The Act gave legislative councils limited control over financial matters, including the authority to discuss the budget and finances. However, real financial control remained with the British government.
  • Legal Reforms: The Act brought about legal reforms, including changes in the judicial system. It established high courts and district courts.
  • Indian Council: The Act created the Indian Council, consisting of members nominated by the Viceroy, to assist in the administration of India. This council played an advisory role.
  • End of the East India Company’s Rule: The Act marked the end of the rule of the British East India Company in India. The Company’s charter was revoked, and it was dissolved.
  • Beginning of Direct British Rule: The Act initiated direct British rule in India under the authority of the British Crown. India became a formal part of the British Empire.

Defects of The Government of India Act 1858

  • It was dominated by absolute Imperial control with no representation for the people of India.
  • The Secretary of State was the supreme authority and had a free hand in the administration of India and was responsible only to the British parliament.

Related Links:

Charter Act 1833Pitt’s India Act 1784
Regulating Act of 1773Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA)