Pitt’s India Act of 1784

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Features of Pitt’s India Act of 1784

Basically, this act was made to rectify the defects of the Regulating Act of 1733. The British parliament passed the Amending Act of 1781, also known as the Act of Settlement.

By another Act of parliament passed in 1781, the Governor- General and Council were empowered to frame regulations for the “provincial courts and councils”.

Copies of these regulations were required to be sent to the Court of Directors and the Secretary of state, who might disallow them within two years. Thus, from 1781 the legislative powers of the Governor- General and Council were derived from two Parliamentary Acts, the Regulating Act of 1773 and the Act of 1781.

Further, the next important act was the Pitt’s India Act of 1784.

The East India Company Act 1784, also known as Pitt’s India Act as William Pitt the Younger was Britain’s Prime Minister when the act was passed. Through this act parliament of Great Britain intended to address the shortcomings of the Regulating Act of 1773 by bringing the East India Company’s rule in India under the control of the British Government.

Features of Pitt’s India Act of 1784:

• The act provided for the appointment of a Board of control, and provided for a joint government of British India by the company and the Crown with the government holding the ultimate authority.

• A six member board of controllers was set up for political activities and court of directors for financial activities.

→ It was consisted of:

1. Secretary of State.

2. Chancellor of Exchequer.

3. Four other members from Privy Council to be appointed by the Crown.

→ Secretary of state was to act as Chairman of the Board.

• The act set up a system whereby it supervised the work of the company but did not take power for itself. This act was the stepping stone for the rule of British in India.

• It distinguished between the commercial and political functions of the Company.

• It allowed the Court of Directors to manage the commercial affairs but created a new body called Board of Control to manage the political affairs. Thus, it established a system of double government.

• It empowered the Board of Control to supervise and direct all operations of the civil and military government or revenues of the British possessions in India.

• By a supplementary act passed in 1786, Lord Cornwallis was appointed as the 2nd governor-general of Bengal, and he then became the effective ruler of British India under the authority of the Board of Control the Court of Directors.

• The governing council of the Company was reduced to three members. The governors of Bombay and Madras were also deprived of their independence. The governor-general was given greater powers in matters of war, revenue and diplomacy.

• In respect of the subject matters, the powers of the Supreme Court under the Regulation Act were of wide amplitude. It enabled them to make laws for “the good order and civil government of the settlement and all factories and places subordinate thereto”.

Significance of Pitt’s India Act of 1784:

• First, the Company’s territories in India were for the first time called the ‘British possessions in India’.

• Second, the British Government was given the supreme control over Company’s affairs and its administration in India.

The constitution set up by Pitt’s India Act did not undergo any major changes until the end of the Company’s rule in India in 1858.

Drawback of Pitt’s India Act:

The Governor General had to serve two masters i.e. British crown as well as the East India Company (Dual system of government).

There were no clear boundaries between responsibilities of Board of Control and Court of Directors of company. Governor General had to take on the spot decisions exercising his discretion.

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