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Crown Rule in India: Legislation and Regulatory Frameworks

The term “Crown rule in India” denotes the direct governance exercised by the British Crown over India from 1857 to 1947. It originated after the Revolt of 1857, when the British Crown, formerly represented by the East India Company, assumed direct administrative control, leading to the establishment of the British Raj. This period of British crown rule, extending from 1858 until India’s independence in 1947, is commonly referred to as “Crown Rule.”

Understanding this era is crucial for the UPSC IAS exam, particularly in the context of Medieval Indian History covered in the Mains General Studies Paper-1 syllabus and General Studies Paper-1 of the UPSC Prelims Syllabus.

About Crown Rule

Crown rule denotes the direct governance of the Indian subcontinent by the British Crown. It commenced in 1858 after the Indian Rebellion of 1857, with the transfer of authority from the East India Company to Queen Victoria as the representative of the Crown. This era of Crown rule persisted until 1947, culminating in India’s attainment of independence.

History of Crown Rule in India

The era of Crown Rule in India denotes the period of British colonial rule from 1858 to 1947, during which direct governance was exercised by the British Crown. This phase succeeded the Revolt of 1857, also known as the Indian Mutiny or the First War of Indian Independence, a significant uprising against British authority.

Throughout Crown Rule, the British government implemented strategies to strengthen British dominance over India and advance British interests. These measures included establishing a centralized administration, introducing English education and Western legal systems, constructing railways and telegraph networks, and expanding the Indian Army. However, these policies often faced criticism for their perceived exploitation and oppression of the Indian populace.

Legislation and Regulatory Frameworks

Government of India Act, 1858-

  • The Government of India Act of 1858, passed after the 1857 Revolt, is often referred to as the First War of Independence or the sepoy mutiny.
  • This act, officially titled the Act for the Good Government of India, transferred governmental authority, territory, and revenues to the British Crown.
  • It declared that India would be administered by and in the name of Her Majesty henceforth.
  • The Act abolished the Board of Control and the Court of Directors, thus eliminating the dual governance system.
  • It introduced the position of Secretary of State for India, vested with complete authority and control over the Indian government.
  • Additionally, the Act constituted a 15-member Council of India to assist the Secretary of State in governing India.

Indian Councils Act, 1861-

  • The Indian Councils Act of 1861 established the first representative institutions by including Indians in the legislative process.
  • As a result, the ruler had to appoint several Indians as non-official members of his larger council.
  • It started the decentralization movement by returning legislative powers to the Bombay and Madras Presidency.
  • It reversed the centralizing trend that began with the Regulating Act of 1773 and culminated with the Charter Act of 1833.
  • It also provided for forming new legislative councils for Bengal, the North-Western Provinces, and Punjab, which were formed in 1862, 1886, and 1897, respectively.
  • It authorized the Viceroy to issue rules and directives to facilitate the conduct of business in the council.
  • It also acknowledged Lord Canning’s ‘portfolio’ approach, which he launched in 1859.
  • During an emergency, it authorized the Viceroy to promulgate ordinances without the approval of the legislative council. Such an ordinance had a six-month lifespan.

Indian Councils Act, 1892-

  • The Indian National Congress’s formation in 1885 and subsequent advocacy for administrative reforms prompted the passing of the Indian Councils Act of 1892.
  • This Act facilitated the transition towards a more representative government structure by allowing the head of government to appoint a specific proportion of council members.
  • It laid down the groundwork for a parliamentary system of governance by granting legislators the ability to raise questions and debate the budget.
  • Additionally, the Act increased internal autonomy by expanding the powers of provincial legislatures.

Indian Councils Act, 1909-

  • The Indian Councils Act of 1909, also known as the Morley-Minto Reforms, was introduced to counteract the growing support for radicals within the Indian national movement.
  • Its primary objective was to address the Indian National Congress’s persistent demands for increased Indian participation in the country’s governance.
  • Developed by Secretary of State Lord Morley and Viceroy Lord Minto, it significantly enlarged both the Central and Provincial Legislative Councils.
  • While maintaining an official majority in the Central Legislative Council, it allowed non-official majorities in the provincial legislatures.
  • The Act augmented the deliberative powers of legislative councils at both the central and provincial levels.
  • It permitted the inclusion of Indians on the executive councils of the Viceroy and Governors.
  • Introducing the concept of a “distinct electorate,” it established communal representation for Muslims, thereby legalizing communalism, with Lord Minto earning the epithet of the “Father of the Communal Electorate.”
  • Additionally, the Act separated presidential corporations, trade chambers, colleges, and zamindars.

Government of India Act, 1919-

  • The Government of India Act of 1919, which came into effect in 1921, is also known as the Montagu-Chelmsford Reforms, named after the Secretary of State for India, Edwin Montagu, and the Viceroy of India, Lord Chelmsford.
  • It decentralized power from the center to the provinces by delineating and segregating central and provincial subjects.
  • Provincial matters were categorized into transferred and reserved, with governors responsible for managing transferred subjects alongside ministers accountable to the Legislative Council, while reserved subjects were handled by the governor and his executive council without reporting to the Legislative Council.
  • This dual governing system was termed “dyarchy,” deriving its name from the Greek word “di-arche,” meaning “double rule.”
  • The Act expanded communal representation by establishing distinct electorates for Sikhs, Indian Christians, Anglo-Indians, and Europeans.
  • It introduced restricted franchises based on property, taxation, or education.
  • A new office of the High Commissioner for India in London was established, with some tasks formerly handled by the Secretary of State for India delegated to this office.
  • For the first time, provincial budgets were separated from the central budget, and provincial legislatures were empowered to enact and implement their budgets.

Government of India Act, 1935-

  • The Government of India Act of 1935 represented a significant stride toward establishing a fully accountable government in India.
  • This comprehensive document comprised 321 sections and ten schedules, reflecting its meticulous nature.
  • It proposed the formation of an All India Federation, with provinces and princely states as its constituents.
  • Competencies were divided between the Centre and units into three lists: the Federal List (for the Centre, comprising 59 items), the Provincial List (for provinces, containing 54 items), and the Concurrent List (for both, with 36 items).
  • Residuary powers were vested in the Viceroy, although the envisioned union failed to materialize due to the reluctance of princely states to participate.
  • The Act abolished dyarchy in the provinces, replacing it with ‘provincial autonomy,’ granting provinces the authority to operate as self-governing administrative entities within their designated jurisdictions.

Indian Independence Act of 1947-

  • The India Independence Act of 1947 emerged following the declaration by then-British Prime Minister Clement Atlee of the end of
  • British rule in India, alongside the acceptance of the Mountbatten Plan by the Congress and the Muslim League.
  • This act effectively terminated British authority in India and established India as an independent and sovereign nation.
  • It mandated the division of India and the creation of two separate sovereign dominions, India and Pakistan, with Pakistan granted the option to withdraw from the British Commonwealth.
  • The Constituent Assemblies of both dominions were granted legislative powers for their respective regions until the formulation and adoption of new constitutions.
  • The Act abolished the position of Secretary of State for India, transferring his duties to the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Affairs.
  • It marked the conclusion of British suzerainty over Indian princely states and the dissolution of treaty links with tribal territories on August 15, 1947.
  • Indian princely states were given the choice to accede to either the Dominion of India or the Dominion of Pakistan or to remain independent.
  • The Governor-General of India and provincial governors were designated as the constitutional leaders of the states.
  • Furthermore, it discontinued the appointment of the secretary of state for India to civil services and the reservation of jobs.

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Which law ended Crown rule in India?

The Government of India Act 1858 ended Crown rule in India.

How many years did the British rule in India?

The British ruled the Indian subcontinent and India which lasted from 1858 to 1947.

When did crown rule begin in India?

Crown rule in India refers to the British crown's direct control from 1857 to 1947.

Was India rich before the Crown Rule?

From the first century CE to the advent of British domination in India in the 17th century, India's GDP ranged between 25 and 35% of global GDP, before falling to 2% by India's independence in 1947.

What do you mean by Company Rule and Crown Rule?

The East India Company's authority in India lands from 1773 to 1858 is known as Company Rule, whereas Monarchy rule in India refers to the direct administration of the British crown from 1857 to 1947.

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