History of Constitution of India

history of the constitution of india
  • British came to India in 1600 as East India Company.
  • They had the exclusive right to trade in India according to the charter granted by Queen Elizabeth.
  • In 1765, the Company, which till now had purely trading functions obtained the ‘diwani’.
  • Diwani was the rights over revenue and civil justice of Bengal, Bihar, and Orissa.


history of the constitution of india
East India Company Office in London


Regulating Act of 1773


  • In 1772, East India Company was in financial crisis.
  • They asked a loan of 1 million pounds from British govt.
  • Allegations of corruption and nepotism against company officials.
  • Famine in Bengal, huge population perished.
  • Dual form of administration was drawing a lot of complaints.
  • Defeat of company by Mysore’s Hyder Ali in 1769.
  • So, Lord North decided to overhaul the management of the Company.
  • This was the first step by British government to take control of India.



  • The Governors of Madras and Bombay were brought under the control of Bengal.
  • Governor General of Bengal.
  • Executive Council of Four member.
  • Restricted the Court of Directors (Civil, Revenue, Military) to four-year terms.
  • A Supreme Court was established at  Fort William at Calcutta
    • Elijah Impey as Chief Justice & 3 other judge
  • Supreme Court had civil and criminal jurisdiction over only British subjects, not Indian natives.
  • Prohibited from Private trade and ‘native’ Bribes.
  • Company dividends were limited to 6% until it repaid a £1.5m loan.




Pitt’s India Act 1784

  • Chancellor of the Exchequer to be appointed “Commissioners for the Affairs of India”.
  • Separation in Commercial and political functions, system of double government.
    • 3 Court of Directors – Commercial
    • New 6 member Board of Control – Political (civil & military).
  • ‘British Possession in India’ & British Government get control over company
  • Governors of Bombay and Madras independence were deprived.
  • British prime minister was William Pitt the Younger.
  • In 1786 Lord Cornwallis passed a supplementary act.
    • 2nd governor-general of Bengal was appointed.



history of the constitution of india

Charter Act of 1793

  • It declares Governor-General’s power of over-ruling his council and Governors of the subordinate presidencies.
  • Company’s dividends were allowed to be raised to 10%.
  • Salaries of the staff and the Board of Control were charged to the company.
  • Company had to pay the British govt. Rs.5 Lakhs from the Indian revenue annually.
  • Now company can grant licenses to individuals and its employees to carry on trade in India.




Charter Act of 1813

  • This Act asserted the Crown’s sovereignty over British India.
  • Company’s trade monopoly was ended except for the trade in tea and with China.
  • This was due to Napoleon’s Continental System in Europe.
  • Now local govt. can tax people under the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court.
  • Allotted Rs.1 Lakh for Indian education.
  • Financial grant towards the revival of Indian literature and the promotion of science.
  • Permitted Christian missionaries to propagate English and Christianity.


history of indian constitution


Charter Act of 1833

  • It’s also known as Saint Helena Act 1833.
  • Control of the island of Saint Helena is transferred to the Crown.
  • Governor-General of Bengal became Governor General of India.
  • Company’s trade with China were closed down.
  • East India company became purely Administrative body.
  • This act was the first step to centralize India’s administration.
  • It attempted to start merit based open competition of Civil Service.
  • Restrictions on European immigration and acquisition of property in India were lifted
  • Law commission was established in 1834.
  • Law commissioner was added to the governor general council as an ordinary Member.
  • Abolition of Slavery in 1843.
  • It permitted British people to settle freely in India.




Charter Act of 1853

  • Separation of Legislature & Executive function
  • Legislative Council became a 12 member body.
  • Appointment of a separate governor for Bengal Presidency.
  • Open Competition of selection of Civil Servant for Indians (Macaulay Committee).
  • Local representation in Central Legislature Council form Provincial govt.
  • Provincial govt. in Madras, Bombay, Bengal and Agra.
  • Law member became full member with the right to vote.





Government of India Act 1858

  • Passed on 2nd Aug 1858.
  • This act. called for liquidation of East India Company.
  • British territories in India were to be governed directly by the British Crown.
  • Governor General of India became Viceroy of India.
  • New Executive Council was made to assist Viceroy.
  • Viceroy and the governors of different presidencies were appointed by the Crown.
  • Board of Control and Court of Directors was abolished.
  • Doctrine of lapse act. was ended.
  • Post of Secretary of State, a member of the British cabinet, was created.
  • Indian Civil Service was created under the control of the Secretary of State.
  • 15 member Council of India, an advisory body to assist him.


historical background of indian constitution


Indian Councils Act of 1861

  • Imperial Legislative Council was created with 5 members.
  • 3 members were appointed by the Secretary of State for India and 2 by the Crown.
  • It started functioning as a cabinet run on the portfolio system.
  • 5 Portfolio was Revenue, Military, Law, Finance, and Home.
  • Viceroy can issue ordinances lasting six months if the legislative council is not in session.
  • Indians nominated to the Central legislative council, Raja of Benaras, Maharaja of Patiala, and Sir Dinkar Rao.
  • Decentralization of power and restored legislative powers of Bombay and Madras Presidencies.
  • New Legislative Council in Bengal (1862), N-W Frontier (1886), and Punjab (1897).




Indian Councils Act of 1892

  • Members were given the right to ask questions on the budget and matters of public interest.
  • But, they had to give a notice before 6 days.
  • Principle of representation was introduced in Legislative Councils.
  • Universities, district board, municipalities, zamindars and chambers of commerce can recommend members to provincial councils.




Indian Councils Act of 1909

  • It known as Morley-Minto Reforms
  • It passed on 12 March 1909.
  • John Morley was Secretary of State for India
  • Central Legislative Council member increased 16 to 60.
  • Provincial Legislative Council member also increased.
  • Elected members were added to provincial council.
  • They were elected indirectly by electoral college of local bodies.
  • Provincial Council now get Non-official majority.
  • Members can ask supplementary questions and move resolutions on budget.
  • 1st Indian in Viceroy Executive council, Satyendra Prasad Sinha as a Law member.
  • 2 Indians were nominated to the Council of the Secretary of State.
  • Separate Electorate for Muslims (Minto – father of Communal Electorate).




Government of India Act 1919

  • It’s called Montague – Chelmsford Reforms
  • It passed on 23 Dec 1919.
  • Montague was Secretary of State.
  • This Act had a separate Preamble.
  • It introduce office of High Commissioner for India in London.
  • 3 Indian members in Viceroy’s Executive council.
  • Direct Election in Country with restricted franchise.
  • Extended the communal representation to Sikhs, Christians, Anglo-Indians and Europeans.
  • Subjects were divided into two lists
    • Central Subjects
    • Provincial Subjects
      • Transferred Subject
      • Reserved Subject
  • Bicameral legislature was set up in Central govt. with two houses
    • Upper House (Council of State)
    • Lower House (Legislative Assembly)
  • Elected members of Central govt. were elected by Provincial govt.
  • Post of Speaker and Deputy Speaker was introduced in Central govt.
  • Only 25% of the budget was subject to vote.
  • Measures to resolve deadlock between both the houses
    • Joint committees
    • Joint conferences
    • Joint sittings
  • Diarchy was introduced in Provincial govt.
  • 2 classes of administrators
    • Executive councilors – Reserved Subject
      • Land revenue
      • Famine relief
      • Irrigation
      • Justice
      • Law and order
      • Newspapers
      • Forests
    • Ministers – Transferred Subject
      • Education
      • Public health & works
      • Agriculture & fisheries
      • Local self governments
      • Medical services
  • Separate Budget for Provinces.
  • Public Service Commission established in India, 1st Oct 1926.
  • Appointment of statutory body to inquire after 10 years.




Government of India Act 1935

  • Received Royal assent in 24 July 1935.
  • 321 sections 10 schedules
  • Council of India was abolished and introduced advisory body in its place.
  • Subjects were divided between 3 lists
    • Federal List – Centre
      • Reserved
      • Transferred
    • Provincial List – Provinces
    • Concurrent List – Both
  • Council of Ministers in central and provincial govt.
  • Diarchy started at central govt.
    • Reserved – Viceroy with the help of Executive Council
    • Transferred – Viceroy with the help of Council of Ministers
  • Council of State, the Upper house was permanent body and Federal legislature was lower house
  • It provides more provincial autonomy.
  • Abolished Diarchy at provincial level as per the suggestion of Simon commission.
  • Bicameralism in 6 provinces out of 11.
  • New Sindh province was carved out from Bombay Presidency.
  • Bihar and Orissa were split.
  • Burma was separated from India on 1 April 1937.
  • Extended the franchise about 10% of total people of India.
  • Reserve Bank of India established.
  • Federal, Provincial and Joint Public Service Commission
  • In 1937, Federal Court was established in Delhi.
  • Safeguards and protective instruments for minorities.




Indian Independence Act 1947


  • In 20th Feb 1947 British prime minister Clement Attlee announced Indian Independence.
  • In May 1947, Mountbatten proposed a plan under which provinces are independent to choose to join constituent assembly or not. 
  • This was called the ‘Dickie Bird Plan’.
  • Jawaharlal Nehru, opposed it saying that it would lead to balkanization of the country.
  • The plan also called Plan Balkan.
  • Viceroy came up with another plan, June 3 Plan or the Mountbatten Plan.
  • Plan was accepted by Congress and Muslim League.
  • It was received royal assent on 18 July 1947.
  • Constituent assembly could enact, repeal, and amend any law.
  • Thus it was made a legislative body too.
  • When it worked a legislative body it was chaired by GV Malwankar till 1949.



  • Division of British India into two new dominions of India and Pakistan.
  • Partition of Bengal and Punjab.
  • Establishment of the office of Governor-General in each two countries.
  • Transfer complete legislative authority upon Constituent Assemblies of new countries.
  • Termination of British control over the princely states
  • Rights to Princely states to remain independent or accede to India or Pakistan.
  • Abolition of the use of the title “Emperor of India” by the British monarch.


Interim Government, 1946
Members of Interim Government, 1946


Interim Government, 1946

  • It is also known as the Provisional Government.
  • It was formed in 2 September 1946.
  • Congress Party won 208 seats and Muslim League won 73 seats.
  • 26th Oct 1946, Muslim league joined the Interim Government
  • Members of the Interim Government
    • Vice President of the Executive Council, External Affairs and Commonwealth Relations – Jawaharlal Nehru 
    • Home Affairs, Information & Broadcasting – Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel
    • Agriculture & Food: Rajendra Prasad
    • Commerce –  Ibrahim Ismail Chundrigar (ML)
    • Defence – Baldev Singh (INC)
    • Finance – Liaquat Ali Khan (ML)
    • Education & Arts – C Rajagopalachari (INC)
    • Health – Ghazanfar Ali Khan (ML)
    • Labour – Jagjivan Ram (INC)
    • Law – Jogendra Nath Mandal (ML)
    • Railways & Communications, Post and Air – Abdur Rab Nishtar (ML)
    • Works, Mines & Power – C H Bhabha (INC)


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