Background of the Indian Constitution

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Background of the Indian Constitution

The seeds of British arrival in India were sown in 1600 which grew into a grand tree until it perished in 1947 and led to the adoption of the present constitution.

India ceased to be a dominion of the British Crown and became a sovereign democratic republic with the constitution.

Before 1947, India was divided into two main entities the British India which consisted of 11 provinces and the princely states ruled by the Indian princess under subsidiary Alliance policy.

The British authority in India was established through the agency of a trading corporation – The East India Company- famed in England in 1600, under a Chatter of Queen Elizabeth I which gave it the exclusive right of trading in all parts of Asia, Africa and America.

The company established its trading centers or factories at several places in the country and in the course of time the factories at Bombay, Madras and Calcutta became the chief settlements or presidencies, as they were called, and exercised supervision and control over subordinate depots and places in their vicinity.

During the period, except Bombay whose sovereignty had been ceded to the British Crown, wherever the English settled, they did so with the license of the Indian government.

With the help of the Crown and for the crown the rights of sovereignty cannot be ascertained the sovereignty has long since been vested in the Crown.

The personal character of the law of India and the nature of many of its principles and penalties made it impossible for men of a different religion and habits of thought to adopt it for their own use.

In these circumstances it became necessary, even before the Company had become a sovereign power in India, that the Crown should grant to them certain legislative and judicial powers to be exercised by them over the English servants of the Company and such Indian settlers who placed themselves under their protection. With regard to the early legislative authority, Queen Elizabeth’s Charter of 1601 granted permission to the Governor and Company.
The company had also the power to execute its laws by providing such pains, punishments and penalties by imprisonment or fine as might seem to them necessary. But the legislative power of the company was subject to an important limitation, the laws made by it were not be contrary to the laws, statutes or customs of England. Similar powers were affirmed by the Charters granted by James I and Charles II in 1609 and 1661 respectively.
The Charter granted by William III in 1698 makes no mention of legislative powers.

In George I’s Charter of 1726 men on the spot, the Governors in Council of the three presidencies were given the power to make, constitute and ordain bye-laws, rules and ordinances for the good government and regulation of the several corporations.

The Charter of 1726 also introduced in all the three presidencies a Mayor’s Court who was not the company’s Court but the Court of the King of England.

The charter of George II granted in the year 1753 is exactly similar to that of George I.

The areas under the Company’s government during this period were so small that by now the early Charters would have been forgotten, had not their grantees subsequently become the sovereign of India.

The only point worth emphasizing in the early Charters is that the governmental functions are classified as executive, legislative and judicial, though they are exercisable for the most part by one and the same body.

It was not till middle of the 18th century that the English had departed from the Character of merchants and factors, but then event occurred- victories of Plassey (1957) and Buxar (1764), which made them virtual masters of Bengal.

With Independence came the need of a Constitution. As suggested by M N Roy in 1934, a Constituent Assembly was formed for this purpose in 1946 and on January 26, 1950, the Constitution came into being. However, various features of the Indian Constitution and polity have their roots in the British rule. There are certain events in the British rule that laid down the legal framework for the organization and functioning of government and administration in British India. These events have greatly influenced our constitution and polity.

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