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The Charter Act of 1833 or The Saint Helena Act 1833

Charter Act of 1833- Background

  • Industrial Revolution of Britain: resulted in the demand for the market. This envisaged that Indian’s had to function as a market for the English mass production on the basis of ‘Laissez Faire’.
  • The Charter Act of 1833 also known as the Saint Helena Act 1833 was passed to accommodate these requirements of an Industrialized Britain.
  • 20 years extension provided by the Charter Act of 1813 to British East India Company (EIC) was also coming to an end in 1833, requiring a fresh Charter Act.
  • The Saint Helena Act 1833 or the Government of India Act 1833 was an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom aimed at giving another lease of life to the Company for the next 20 years.


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Charter Act of 1833- Key Provisions

  • End of Commercial functions of the EIC in India: The Charter Act of 1833 ended the activities of the East India Company as a commercial body, it became an administrative body.
    • The Company was asked to end its trade entirely, alike with India and China, and permit Europeans to settle freely in India.
  • It provided that the company’s territories in India were held by the government ‘in trust for His Majesty, His heirs, and successors.
  • Centralization of Power:
    • The Saint Helena Act of 1833 made the Governor-General of Bengal as the Governor-General of India and vested in him all civil and military powers.
    • Lord William Bentinck became the first Governor-General of India.
    • Centralization of legislative powers: the Governors of Bombay and Madras lost their legislative powers. Governor-General of India had legislative powers over entire British India.
      • Governor-General-in-Council could repeal, amend or alter any laws or regulations including all persons (whether British or native or foreigners), all places and things in every part of British territory in India, for all servants of the company, and articles of war.
    • All financial and administrative powers were centralized in the hands of Governor General-in-Council.
  • Governor-general’s council: 4rth member was added to the Governor General’s council which was earlier fixed to 3 by the Pitts India Act 1784.
    • The 4th member had limited powers. He was NOT entitled to act as a member of the council except for legislative purposes.
    • Lord Macaulay became the first Law Member of the Governor General’s council.
  • The Charter Act of 1833 provided that all laws made in India were to be laid before the British Parliament and were to be known as Acts.
  • Provided for the First Law Commission of India: Lord Macaulay became the chairman of the commission.
    • Objectives: to inquire into the Jurisdiction, powers, and rules of the courts of justice police establishments, existing forms of judicial procedure, nature and operation of all kinds of laws.
    • Law Commission report to be submitted to the Governor General-in-council and was further to be placed in the British parliament.
  • Opened government services to Indians: Section 87 of Charter Act of 1833 attempted to introduce a system of open competition for selection of civil servants, and stated that the Indians should not be debarred from holding any place, office and employment under the Company only based on religion, place of birth, descent, colour or any of them.
    • These provisions were not effectively implemented, mainly due to fierce opposition from the court of directors.
  • Provision to end Slavery in India: The Charter Act of 1833 directed the Governor General-in-Council to adopt measures to mitigate the state of slavery, persisting in India.
    • The Governor General-in-Council was also directed to pay attention to laws of marriage, rights and authorities of the heads of the families while drafting any laws.


Charter Act of 1813

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