From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia - View original article
|This article includes a list of references, related reading or external links, but its sources remain unclear because it lacks inline citations. (September 2011)|
The Council of India was the name given at different times to two separate bodies associated with British rule in India.
The original Council of India was established by the Regulating Act of 1773[verification needed] as a council of four formal advisors to the Governor-General at Fort William. The Governor-General in Council was subordinate only to the East India Company's Court of Directors and to the British Crown.
In 1858 the Company's involvement in India's government was transferred by the Government of India Act 1858 to the British government. The Act created a new governmental department in London (the India Office), headed by the cabinet-ranking Secretary of State for India, who was in turn to be advised by a new Council of India (also based in London). In consequence, the existing council in India was formally renamed by the Act (s. 7) as the Council of the Governor General of India.
The Secretary of State's Council of India was abolished by the Government of India Act 1935.
The 1773 Act provided for the election of four counsellors by the East India Company's Court of Directors. The Governor-General had a vote along with the counsellors, but he also had an additional casting vote. The decision of the Council was binding on the Governor-General. The Council of Four, as it was known in its early days, did in fact attempt to impeach the first Governor-General, Warren Hastings, but in his subsequent trial by parliament he was found to be not guilty.
In 1784, the Council was reduced to three members; the Governor-General continued to have both an ordinary vote and a casting vote. In 1786, the power of the Governor-General was increased even further, as Council decisions ceased to be binding.
The Charter Act 1833 made further changes to the structure of the Council. The Act was the first law to distinguish between the executive and legislative responsibilities of the Governor-General. As provided under the Act, there were to be four members of the Council elected by the Court of Directors. The first three members were permitted to participate on all occasions, but the fourth member was only allowed to sit and vote when legislation was being debated.
In 1858, the Court of Directors ceased to have the power to elect members of the Council. Instead, the one member who had a vote only on legislative questions came to be appointed by the Sovereign, and the other three members by the Secretary of State for India.
The Indian Councils Act 1861 made several changes to the Council's composition. Three members were to be appointed by the Secretary of State for India, and two by the Sovereign. (The power to appoint all five members passed to the Crown in 1869.) The Governor-General was empowered to appoint an additional six to twelve members. This was changed to ten to sixteen members in 1892, and to sixty members in 1909. The five individuals appointed by the Indian Secretary or Sovereign headed the executive departments, while those appointed by the Governor-General debated and voted on legislation.
As a result of the Government of India Act 1919, an Indian legislature, consisting of a Council of State and a Central Legislative Assembly, took over the legislative functions of the Governor-General's Council. The Governor-General nonetheless retained significant power over legislation. He could authorise the expenditure of money without the Legislature's consent for "ecclesiastical, political [and] defence" purposes, and for any purpose during "emergencies". He was permitted to veto, or even stop debate on, any bill. If he recommended the passage of a bill, but only one chamber co-operated, he could declare the bill passed over the objections of the other chamber. The Legislature had no authority over foreign affairs and defence. The President of the Council of State was appointed by the Governor-General; the Central Legislative Assembly elected its own President, apart from the first, but the election required the Governor-General's approval.
The executive functions of the Governor-General's council evolved into the Viceroy's Executive Council.