Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Indian Council Act 1861

After the act of 1858 British government gave act of 1861 to Indian peoples. The educated middle class was not happy with the act of 1858 so they started reacting against British parliament so to satisfy them British parliament gave the act of 1861. The main provisions of government of India act were: -

  1. Birth of Legislature in India

  2. Provision of Ordinance

  3. Portfolio system


There are three organs of government:

  1. Judiciary

  2. Executive

  3. Legislature

While executive and judiciary came into existence during company rule specially through Cornwallis code in 1793 but Legislature got its birth from act of 1861.

The most revolutionary provision of act of 1861 was birth of legislature in India. Legislature is soul of democracy. The term of member of legislature was 2 years, members of legislature were nominated by British government and no powers were given to legislature at that time. Although it was revolutionary beginning but then Indian legislature of 1861 was like a court of a king, it was not a body of people representative along with it there was no legal provision for entry of Indians into legislature. Although the flatterers of British raj were given place in it for e.g. Maharaja digvijay singh of balrampur.

It was revolutionary beginning as soul of democracy was born by this act but Indians were ousted from their government and this was pain for educated middle class.

Positive Impact: Birth of Legislature in India which was a great constitutional development of that time

Dissatisfaction: Indians were refrained from their own Government


The next important feature of act of 1861 was provision of ordinance i.e. one of the important feature of Indian constitution. Ordinance is that law when parliament is in vacation and government faces any emergency at that time then government has right to issue ordinance but then after parliament returns it is up to the parliament whether ordinance will prevail or not. It will be decided by the 2/3rd majority of parliament. Ultimately it is the people’s will which survive in parliament as the people in parliament are their representatives.

But act of 1861 gave ordinance making power to governor general and there was no check on it so it was up to governor general till what time he wants the ordinance to be continued and this turned governor general into despot.

Positive Impact: Provision of Ordinance

Dissatisfaction: Governor General turned into a despot and he was not answerable for his acts done in India to the British government


Portfolio system was also new feature of act of 1861 although it was proposed by Lord Canning, viceroy of India at that time but it got placed in act of 1861. In portfolio system the allotment of different departments to individual minister e.g. home ministry, law ministry, finance ministry etc. it also gave new dimension to Indian polity but the pain for Indians was that Indians were not given a single department.

Positive Impact: New dimension to Indian polity was given by this act

Dissatisfaction: No departments were given Indian in their country

Revolt of 1857 has ended traditional leadership in India so there was political vacuum and the new group i.e. educated middle class got a shock by act of 1858 and faith was shattered by act of 1861 in this reaction educated middle class appeared on political platform of India and modern India is the outcome of this educated middle class. The story of opposition by educated middle class towards British Empire starts with organization like East India association formed by Dadabhai Naoroji in 1866 in London and Indian association by surrender nath Banerjee and Anand Mohan Bose in 1876 in Bengal and these organizations started demanding their political rights from british government and it laid down seed for freedom struggle in india.

From 1860 to 1880 Britain faced twin threats

  • Internal threat

  • External threat

Internal threat

Emerging tide of freedom struggle began in India by the educated middle class like Dadabhai naoroji, surrender nath Banerjee, with the help of their organizations

External threat

Birth of new industrialized nation like Germany, japan and Italy because they can target indie to fulfill their emerging needs of raw material for their growing industrial sector.

So to handle this twin threats British Government appointed  its "ablest" personality in India i.e. Lord Lytton. So next article will be on Lord Lytton


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