Viceroy's Executive Council

The Viceroy's Executive Council was the cabinet of the government of British India headed by the Viceroy of India. It is also known as the Council of the Governor-General of India.[1] It was transformed from an advisory council into a cabinet consisting of five members heading revenue, military, law, finance and home by the Indian Councils Act 1861 giving recognition to the portfolio system introduced by Lord Canning in 1859. In 1874, a sixth member was added to be in charge of public works.


The Government of India Act 1858 transferred the power of the East India Company to the British Crown which was empowered to appoint a Viceroy and Governor-General of India to head the government in India. The advisory council of the Governor-General was based in the capital Calcutta and consisted of four members, three of which were appointed by the Secretary of State for India and one by the Sovereign.

The Indian Councils Act 1861 transformed the Viceroy of India's advisory council into a cabinet run on the portfolio system and increased the number of members by one. Three members were to be appointed by the Secretary of State for India, and two by the Sovereign. The five ordinary members took charge of a separate department: home, revenue, military, law and finance. The military Commander-in-Chief sat in with the council as an extraordinary member. The Viceroy was allowed, under the provisions of the Act, to overrule the council on affairs if he deemed it necessary. In 1869, the power to appoint all five members was passed to the Crown and in 1874, a new member was added to be in charge of public works.

The Indian Councils Act 1909 empowered the Governor General to nominate one Indian member to the Executive Council leading to the appointment of Satyendra Prasanna Sinha as the first Indian member. The Government of India Act 1919 increased the number of Indians in the council to three.

Indians in the Council (19091940)

Expansion in 1941 and 1942

On 8 August 1940, the Viceroy Lord Linlithgow made a proposal called the August Offer which expanded the Executive Council to include more Indians. These proposals were rejected by the Indian National Congress, All-India Muslim League and Hindu Mahasabha.

However they were revived the next year by Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru of the Liberal Party, and accepted by Viceroy who on the 22nd of July 1941 announced a reconstituted Executive Council where for the first time Indians outnumbered Britons.

In addition he announced a 30-member National Defence Council intended to coordinate the war effort between the central government, provincial governments (four of which had elected governments) and the princely states.

An attempt was made to maintain communal balance, but Jinnah as part of his effort to establish his position as the sole spokesman of the Indian Muslim community ordered all AIML members to resign from the Viceroy's Executive and National Defence councils as the Viceroy had not accepted his demand for 50% Muslim representation, nor consulted Jinnah on the selection of Muslim members.

On 2 July 1942 the Viceroy’s Council was again enlarged from 12 to 15. Sir Malik Feroz Khan Noon (ICS officer and High Commissioner in London) appointed Defence member, the first Indian to hold the post (key Congress demand). Sir Ramaswamy Mudaliar, a Tamil politician and Maharaja Jam Saheb Sri Digvijaysinhji Ranjitsinhji of Jamnagar were appointed to newly elevated positions as representatives of the Government of India to the Imperial War Cabinet in London and to Pacific War Council in Washington DC.

The council now consisted of:[3][4][5]

Viceroy and Governor-General of India The Marquess of Linlithgow 18 April 1936 – 1 October 1943
The Viscount Wavell 1 October 1943 – 21 February 1947
Commander-in-Chief, India General Sir Archibald Wavell 5 July 1941 – 5 January 1942
General Sir Alan Hartley 5 January 1942 – 7 March 1942
Field Marshal Sir Archibald Wavell 7 March 1942 – 20 June 1943
General Sir Claude Auchinleck 20 June 1943 – 21 February 1947
Home Sir Reginald Maxwell 1941-1944
Sir Robert Francis Mudie 1944-1946
Finance Sir Jeremy Raisman 1941-1946
Defence Sir Malik Feroz Khan Noon 1942-1944
Civil Defence Dr. Edpuganti Raghavendra Rao 1941-1942
Sir Jwala Prasad Srivastava 1942-1943
Law Sir Syed Sultan Ahmed 1941-1943
Asok Kumar Roy 1943-1946
Information Sir Akbar Hydari 1941-1942
Sir Syed Sultan Ahmed 1943-
Communications Sir Andrew Clow 1941
Supply Sir Homi Mody 1941-1942
Sir Arcot Ramasamy Mudaliar 1943
Commerce Sir Arcot Ramasamy Mudaliar 1941
Nalini Ranjan Sarkar 1942
Health, Education and Lands Nalini Ranjan Sarkar 1941
Jogendra Singh 1942-1946
Labour Feroz Khan Noon 1941
B.R. Ambedkar 1942-1946
Indians Overseas and Commonwealth Relations Madhav Shrihari Aney 1941-1943
Narayan Bhaskar Khare 1943-1946
India's Representative at the British War Cabinet and on the Pacific War Council Arcot Ramasamy Mudaliar 1942-1944
Feroz Khan Noon 1944-1945
War Transport Sir E. C. Benthall 1942-1946
Posts and Air Mohammad Usman 1942-1946
Gurunath Venkatesh Bewoor 1946
Food Sir Jwala Prasad Srivastava 1943-1946
Commerce, industries, civil supplies Mohammad Azizul Huque 1943-1945
Post-war Reconstruction Ardeshir Dalal 1944-1945

Interim Government

As per the mid-June 1946 Cabinet Mission Plan, the Executive Council was expanded to consist of only Indian members except the Viceroy and the Commander-in-Chief intended to form the Interim Government of India until the transfer of power. The Viceroy, Viscount Wavell extended invitations for 14 members.

The Interim Government began to function from 2 September 1946 once the Indian National Congress members took their seats. However, the All-India Muslim League refused to participate until 26 October 1946. The Interim Government served until transfer of power to the Dominion of India and the Dominion of Pakistan on 15 August 1947.

Members of Interim Government

Viceroy and Governor-General of India
The Viscount Wavell

Lord Louis Mountbatten

Commander-in-Chief, India General Sir Claude Auchinleck None
Vice-President of the Executive Council

External Affairs & Commonwealth Relations

Jawaharlal Nehru Indian National Congress
Home Affairs

Information & Broadcasting

Vallabhbhai Patel Indian National Congress
Defence Baldev Singh Indian National Congress
Industries and Supplies John Mathai Indian National Congress
Education C. Rajagopalachari Indian National Congress
Works, Mines and Power Sarat Chandra Bose Indian National Congress
Works, Mines and Power C.H. Bhabha Indian National Congress
Food and Agriculture Rajendra Prasad Indian National Congress
Railways and Transport Asaf Ali Indian National Congress
Labour Jagjivan Ram Indian National Congress
Finance Liaquat Ali Khan All-India Muslim League
Commerce Ibrahim Ismail Chundrigar All-India Muslim League
Health Ghazanfar Ali Khan All-India Muslim League
Posts and Air Abdur Rab Nishtar All-India Muslim League
Law Jogendra Nath Mandal All-India Muslim League


  1. "Government of India Act, 1858: Key Features". 2017-11-21. Retrieved 2019-02-04.
  2. "Nalini Ranjan's Portrait Unveiled". Statesman. 24 December 2001.
  3. Constitutional Schemes and Political Development in India. p. 21.
  4. "THE VICEROY'S EXECUTIVE COUNCIL IS EXPANDED". The Straits Times. 23 July 1941. Retrieved 8 September 2014.
  5. "Viceroy's Executive Council - HC Deb 10 November 1942 vol 383 cc2293-4W".

See also

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