Government of India Act 1858
The Government of India Act 1858 was an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom (21 & 22 Vict. c. 106) passed on August 2, 1858. Its provisions called for the liquidation of the British East India Company (who had up to this point been ruling British India under the auspices of Parliament) and the transference of its functions to the British Crown. Lord Palmerston, then-Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, introduced a bill for the transfer of control of the Government of India from the East India Company to the Crown, referring to the grave defects in the existing system of the government of India. However, before this bill was to be passed, Palmerston was forced to resign on another issue. Later Edward Henry Stanley, 15th Earl of Derby (who would later become the first Secretary of State for India) introduced another bill which was originally titled as "An Act for the Better Government of India" and it was passed on 2 August 1858. This act provided that India was to be governed directly and in the name of the Crown.
|Long title||An Act for the better Government of India|
|Citation||21 & 22 Vict. c. 106|
|Royal assent||2 August 1858|
|Commencement||1 November 1858|
The Indian Rebellion of 1857 forced the British Government to pass the Act. The Act was followed a few months later by Queen Victoria's proclamation to the "Princes, Chiefs, and People of India", which, among other things, stated, "We hold ourselves bound to the natives of our Indian territories by the same obligation of duty which bind us to all our other subjects." (p. 2)
Provisions of the bill
- The Company's territories in India were to be vested in the Queen, the Company ceasing to exercise its power and control over these territories. India was to be governed in the Queen's name.
- The Queen's Principal Secretary of State received the powers and duties of the Company's Court of Directors. A council of fifteen members was appointed to assist the Secretary of State for India. The council became an advisory body in Indian affairs. For all the communications between Britain and India, the Secretary of State became the real channel.
- The Secretary of State for India was empowered to send some secret despatches to India directly without consulting the Council. He was also authorised to constitute special committees of his Council.
- The Crown was empowered to appoint a Governor-General and the Governors of the Presidencies.
- An Indian Civil Service was to be created under the control of the Secretary of State.
- Hereto all the property and other assets of the East India Company were transferred to the Crown. The Crown also assumed the responsibilities of the Company as they related to treaties, contracts, and so forth.
The Act ushered in a new period of Indian history, bringing about the end of Company rule in India. The era of the new British Raj would last until Partition of India in August 1947, at which time all of the territory of the British Raj was granted dominion status within the Dominion of Pakistan and the Union of India.