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Compact Indian Polity & Cinstitution based on Laxmikant for UPSC IAS Civil Services Prelims CSAT Paper-1 (General Studies GS)

INDIAN
POLITY

Chapter 1 Historical Background

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 organisation and functioning of government and administration in British India. These are as follows:

The Company Rule (1773–1858)

Regulating Act of 1773

This act was (a) the first step taken by the British Government to control and regulate the affairs of the East India Company in India; (b) it recognised, for the first time, the political and administrative functions of the Company; and (c) it laid the foundations of central administration in India.
Features of the Act
1. It designated the Governor of Bengal as the ‘Governor-General of Bengal’ and created an Executive Council of four members to assist him. The first such Governor-General was Lord Warren Hastings.
2. It provided for the establishment of a Supreme Court at Calcutta (1774).
3. It prohibited the servants of the Company from engaging in any private trade or accepting presents or bribes from the ‘natives’.

Pitt’s India Act of 1784

The next important act was the Pitt’s India Act of 1784.
Features of the Act
1. It distinguished between the commercial and political functions of the Company.
2. It allowed the Court of Directors to manage the commercial affairs but created a new body called Board of Control to manage and supervise the political affairs. Thus, it established a system of double government.
Thus, the act was significant for two reasons: first, the Company’s territories in India were for the first time called the ‘British possessions in India’; and second, the British Government was given the supreme control over Company’s affairs and its administration in India.

Charter Act of 1833

This Act was the final step towards centralisation in British India.
Features of the Act
1. It made the Governor-General of Bengal as the Governor-General of India and vested in him all civil, military and legislative powers. Lord William Bentick was the first governor-general of India.
2. It deprived the governor of Bombay and Madras of their legislative powers.
3. It ended the activities of the East India Company as a commercial body, which became a purely administrative body. It provided that the company’s territories in India were held by it ‘in trust for His Majesty, His heirs and successors’.

Charter Act of 1853

This was the last of the series of Charter Acts passed by the British Parliament between 1793 and 1853. It was a significant constitutional landmark.
Features of the Act
1. It separated, for the first time, the legislative and executive functions of the Governor-General’s council. It provided for addition of six new members called legislative councillors to the council that is to be known as the Indian (Central) Legislative Council (mini-Parliament).
2. It introduced an open competition system of selection and recruitment of civil servants and opened for Indians also.
3. It introduced, for the first time, local representation in the Indian (Central) Legislative Council. Of the six new legislative members of the governor-general’s council, four members were appointed by the local (provincial) governments of Madras, Bombay, Bengal and Agra.

The Crown Rule (1858–1947)

Government of India Act of 1858

This significant Act was enacted in the wake of the Revolt of 1857. The act known as the Act for the Good Government of India, abolished the East India Company, and transferred the powers of government, territories and revenues to the British Crown.
Features of the Act
1. It provided that India henceforth was to be governed by, and in the name of, Her Majesty. It changed the designation of the Governor-General of India to that of Viceroy of India. He (viceroy) was the direct representative of the British Crown in India. Lord Canning thus became the first Viceroy of India.
2. It ended the system of double government by abolishing the Board of Control and Court of Directors.
3. It created a new office, Secretary of State for India, vested with complete authority and control over Indian administration. The secretary of state was a member of the British cabinet and was responsible ultimately to the British Parliament.
4. It established a 15-member Council of India to assist the secretary of state for India. The council was an advisory body. The secretary of state was made the chairman of the council.

Indian Councils Act of 1861, 1892 and 1909

After the great revolt of 1857, the British Government felt the necessity of seeking the cooperation of the Indians in the administration of their country. In pursuance of this policy of association, three acts were enacted by the British Parliament in 1861, 1892 and 1909. The Indian Councils Act of 1861 is an important landmark in the constitutional and political history of India.
Features of the Act of 1861
1. It made a beginning of representative institutions by associating Indians with the law-making process. It thus provided that the viceroy should nominate some Indians as non-official members of his expanded council.
2. It initiated the process of decentralisation by restoring the legislative powers to the Bombay and Madras Presidencies.
3. It also gave a recognition to the ‘portfolio’ system (separate head for separate departments), introduced by Lord Canning in 1859.
4. It empowered the Viceroy to issue ordinances, without the concurrence of the legislative council, during an emergency. The life of such an ordinance was six months.
Features of the Act of 1892
1. It increased the number of additional (non-official) members in the Central and provincial legislative councils, but maintained the official majority in them.
2. It increased the functions of legislative councils and gave them the power of discussing the budget and addressing questions to the executive.
3. It provided for the nomination of some non-official members of the (a) Central Legislative Council by the viceroy on the recommendation of the provincial legislative councils and the Bengal Chamber of Commerce, and (b) that of the Provincial legislative councils by the Governors on the recommendation of the district boards, municipalities, universities, trade associations, zamindars and chambers.
‘The act made a limited and indirect provision for the use of election in filling up some of the non-official seats both in the Central and provincial legislative councils. The word “election” was, however, not used in the act. The process was described as nomination made on the recommendation of certain bodies.’

Features of the Act of 1909

This Act is also known as Morley-Minto Reforms (Lord Morley was the then Secretary of State for India and Lord Minto was the then viceroy of India).
1. It considerably increased the size of the legislative councils, both Central and provincial. The number of members in the Central Legislative Council was raised from 16 to 60.
2. It retained official majority in the Central Legislative Council but allowed the provincial legislative councils to have non-official majority.
3. It provided (for the first time) for the association of Indians with the executive Councils of the viceroy and Governors. Satyendra Prasad Sinha became the first Indian to join the viceroy’s Executive Council. He was appointed as the law member.
5. It introduced a system of communal representation for Muslims by accepting the concept of ‘separate electorate’. Under this, the Muslim members were to be elected only by Muslim voters. Thus, the Act ‘legalised communalism’.

Government of India Act of 1919

This Act is also known as Montagu-Chelmsford Reforms (Montagu was the Secretary of State for India and Lord Chelmsford was the Viceroy of India).
Features of the Act
1. It seperated the central and provincial subjects. The central and provincial legislatures were authorised to make laws on their respective list of subjects.
2. It further divided the provincial subjects into two parts—transferred and reserved. The transferred subjects were to be administered by the governor with the aid of ministers responsible to the legislative Council. The reserved subjects, on the other hand, were to be administered by the governor and his executive council without being responsible to the legislative Council. This dual scheme of governance was known as ‘dyarchy’—a term derived from the Greek word di-arche which means double rule. However, this experiment was largely unsuccessful.
3. It introduced, for the first time, bicameralism and direct elections in the country. Thus, the Indian Legislative Council was replaced by a bicameral legislature consisting of an Upper House (Council of State) and a Lower House (Legislative Assembly). The majority of members of both the Houses were chosen by direct election.
4. It required that the three of the six members of the Viceroy’s executive Council (other than the commander-in-chief) were to be Indian.
5. It extended the principle of communal representation by providing separate electorates for Sikhs, Indian Christians, Anglo-Indians and Europeans.
6. It provided for the establishment of a public service commission. Hence, a Central Public Service Commission was set up in 1926 for recruiting civil servants.
7. It provided for the appointment of a statutory commission to inquire into and report on its working after ten years of its coming into force. As a result In November 1927, the British Government announced the appointment a seven-member statutory commission under the chairmanship of Sir John Simon to report on the condition of India under its new Constitution. All the members of the commission were British and hence, all the parties boycotted the commission.

Government of India Act of 1935

The Act marked a second milestone towards a completely responsible government in India. It was a lengthy and detailed document having 321 Sections and 10 Schedules.
Features of the Act
1. It provided for the establishment of an All-India Federation consisting of provinces and princely states as units. The Act divided the powers between the Centre and units in terms of three lists—Federal List (for Centre, with 59 items), Provincial List (for provinces, with 54 items) and the Concurrent List (for both, with 36 items). Residuary powers were given to the Viceroy. However, the federation never came into being as the princely states did not join it.
2. It abolished dyarchy in the provinces and introduced almost complete ‘provincial autonomy’ in its place. It introduced responsible governments in provinces.
3. It provided for the adoption of dyarchy at the Centre. Consequently, the federal subjects were divided into reserved subjects and transferred subjects.
4. It further extended the principle of communal representation by providing separate electorates for depressed classes (scheduled castes), women and labour (workers).
5. It provided for the establishment of a Reserve Bank of India to control the currency and credit of the country.
6. It provided for the establishment of not only a Federal Public Service Commission but also a Provincial Public Service Commission and Joint Public Service Commission for two or more provinces.
7. It provided for the establishment of a Federal Court, which was set up in 1937.

Comparison 1909, 1919, 1935

1909 1919 1935
Non-official majority (elected) Only in provinces Both centre as well as at provinces Both centre as well as at provinces
Element of Federalism No Separation of the central and provincial subjects introduced All-India Federation – three lists—Federal List (for Centre), Provincial List (for provinces) and the Concurrent List
Dyarchy at Provinces No Yes, by transferred and Reserved Subjects No, Introduced provincial Autonomy instead
Dyarchy at Center No No Yes, federal subjects were divided into reserved subjects and transferred subjects
Direct Elections No Yes Yes
Bicameralism at centre No Yes Yes
Bicameralism at provinces No No Yes

Indian Independence Act of 1947

On June 3, 1947, Lord Mountbatten, the viceroy of India, put forth the partition plan, known as the Mountbatten Plan. Immediate effect was given to the plan by enacting the Indian Independence Act (1947).
Features of the Act
1. It provided for the partition of India and creation of two independent dominions of India and Pakistan with the right to secede from the British Commonwealth. It empowered the Constituent Assemblies of both the dominions to legislate for their respective territories.
2. It abolished the office of viceroy and provided, for each dominion, a governor-general, who was to be appointed by the British King on the advice of the dominion cabinet.
3. It empowered the Constituent Assemblies of the two dominions to frame and adopt any constitution for their respective nations.
4. It proclaimed the lapse of British paramountcy over the Indian princely states and they are free either to join the Dominion of India or Dominion of Pakistan or to remain independent.
5. It provided for the governance of each of the dominions and the provinces by the Government of India Act of 1935, till the new Constitutions were framed. The dominions were however authorised to make modifications in the Act.
Table Interim Government (1946)

Sl. No. Members Portfolios Held
1. Jawaharlal Nehru External Affairs & Commonwealth Relations
2. Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Home, Information & Broadcasting
3. Dr. Rajendra Prasad Food & Agriculture
4. Dr. John Mathai Industries & Supplies
5. Jagjivan Ram Labour
6. Sardar Baldev Singh Defence
7. C.H. Bhabha Works, Mines & Power
8. Liaquat Ali Khan Finance
9. Abdur Rab Nishtar Posts & Air
10. Asaf Ali Railways & Transport
11. C. Rajagopalachari Education & Arts
12. I.I. Chundrigar Commerce
13. Ghaznafar Ali Khan Health
14. Joginder Nath Mandal Law

Note:The members of the interim government were members of the Viceroy’s Executive Council. The Viceroy continued to be the head of the Council. But, Jawaharlal Nehru was designated as the Vice-President of the Council.
Table First Cabinet of Free India (1947)

Sl. No. Members Portfolios Held
1. Jawaharlal Nehru Prime Minister; External Affairs & Commonwealth Relations; Scientific Research
2. Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Home, Information & Broadcasting; States
3. Dr. Rajendra Prasad Food & Agriculture
4. Maulana Abul Kalam Azad Education
5. Dr. John Mathai Railways & Transport
6. R.K. Shanmugham Chetty Finance
7. Dr. B.R. Ambedkar Law
8. Jagjivan Ram Labour
9. Sardar Baldev Singh Defence
10. Raj Kumari Amrit Kaur Health
11. C.H. Bhabha Commerce
12. Rafi Ahmed Kidwai Communication
13. Dr. Shyam Prasad Mukherji Industries & Supplies
14. V.N. Gadgil Works, Mines & Power

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