Constitutional Development in India during Warren Hastings

Constitutional Development in India during Warren Hastings

The reign of Warren Hastings is noted for constitutional developments. Significant changes were made in the constitution of the company during his time. This change took place through two legislations – Regulating Act and Pitt’s India Act. These two laws provided a definite direction to the company administration.

Before the passage of this law, the East India Company was an independent trading body over which the British government had no direct control. With the attainment of the state in Bengal, the company was no longer a mere commercial institution. Simultaneously, while the employees of the company were becoming privately wealthy, the company was becoming financially insolvent. She was not even giving the amount to be given to the government and on the contrary was asking for a loan from the government itself. Therefore, in order to control the increasing prosperity of the employees of the Company and its political power, the Parliament of England passed the Regulating Act.

Regulating Act

This law brought about a significant change in the constitution of the company. In the off-proprietors of the law, voting rights were given to only those people whose share was 1,000 pounds. The directors were to be elected every four years. One year’s leave was necessary before the same member was re-elected. The Governor of Bengal became the Governor General and under him were the Governors of Bombay and Madras. To advise him, a council of four members was formed, which could take decisions on the basis of majority. The governor also had the right to cast a final additional vote. The tenure of the members was made five years. A Supreme Court was also established in Calcutta. There was a complete ban on the private trade of the employees.

Legally, the Regulating Act was an important law that imposed government control over the company, but this law had many flaws. Its arrangement was impractical. The governments of Bombay and Madras were not wholly subordinated to the Governor General. The division of powers between the executive and the judiciary was not clear. The constitution of the steering committee was flawed. Council members also turned out to be against Hastings. There was always a fight between them. Criticizing it, one scholar wrote, “It violated the primary principles of governance. It created a Governor-General who was incapable before his council. It created an executive that was helpless before the Supreme Court and the Supreme Court.” It was such that there was no responsibility on him for the peace and welfare of the country.” In the words of Edmund Burke, the ‘Regulating Act’ was a violation of national justice, trust and authority.

Pitts India Act

To remove the weaknesses of the Regulating Act and to protect the interests of the British, in 1784, the British Parliament passed the Pitts India Act. “This Act gave the British Government the right of paramount control over the affairs of the Company and its administration in India.” According to the new law, a 6-member (Commissioners) Board of Control was established whose function was to give necessary advice to the Board of Directors and the Government of India and exercise control over their proceedings. The Minister of Economy of England and members of the Privy Council were kept as its members. A secret committee of 3 members was also formed to send confidential orders to India. The number of members of the Governor-General’s council was reduced to three. The governors of the Madras and Bombay Presidencies were placed entirely under the Governor General in matters relating to war and peace and revenue. The Governor General could no longer adopt any kind of policy (war, peace or friendship) towards any native state without the consent of the Board of Control.

The Pitts India Act was a supplement to the Regulating Act. This law brought the Company’s policies completely under the control of the Government of England. Although there were some flaws in this Act, however, highlighting its importance, C. H. Phillips has written, “The Act of 1784 AD was a clever and devious proposal which put the political power of the governing committee under the secret and effective control of the cabinet. Was.” This act prepared the administrative structure which continued till 1858 AD with some modifications.

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