Evolution Of The Indian Constitution | POLITY
Introduction | Evolution Of The Indian Constitution
- Before 1947, India was divided into two main entities – The British India which consisted of 11 provinces and the Princely states ruled by Indian princes under subsidiary alliance policy.
- The two entities merged together to form the Indian Union, but many of the legacy systems in British India is followed even now.
- The historical underpinnings and evolution of the India Constitution can be traced to many regulations and acts passed before Indian Independence.
What is a constitution?
- Constitution is a legal document having a special legal sanctity, which sets out the framework and the principal functions of the organs of the government of a state, and declares the principles governing the operation of those organs.
- Like every other Constitution, the Indian Constitution also seeks to establish the fundamental organs of government and administration, lays down their structure, composition, powers and principal functions, defines the inter-relationship of one organ with another, and regulates the relationship between the citizen and the state, more particularly the political relationship.
- The states have reasserted certain principles of law through written Constitutions.
Functions of the Constitution | Evolution Of The Indian Constitution
The Constitution is a political structure, whether it is written or not and followed or not. They have several functions.
- Expression of Basic Law: Constitutions present basic laws which could be modified or replaced through a process called extra ordinary procedure of amendment.
- Expression of Ideology: it reflects the ideology and philosophy of a nation state.
- Levels of Government: Constitution generally explains the levels of different organs of the Government i.e. federal, confederal or unitary
- Organizational frame work: It defines the functions legislature, executive and judiciary, their inter-relationship, restrictions on their authority etc.
- Amendment provision: As it would not be possible to foretell all possibilities in future with great degree of accuracy, there must be sufficient provisions for amendment of the Constitution.
Regulating Act of 1773
- The first step was taken by the British Parliament to control and regulate the affairs of the East India Company in India.
- It designated the Governor of Bengal (Fort William) as the Governor-General (of Bengal).
- Warren Hastings became the first Governor-General of Bengal.
- Executive Council of the Governor-General was established (Four members). There was no separate legislative council.
- It subordinated the Governors of Bombay and Madras to the Governor-General of Bengal.
- The Supreme Court was established at Fort William (Calcutta) as the Apex Court in 1774.
- It prohibited servants of the company from engaging in any private trade or accepting bribes from the natives.
- Court of Directors ( the governing body of the company) should report its revenue.
Pitt’s India Act of 1784
- It distinguished between the commercial and political functions of the Company.
- It allowed the Court of Directors to manage the commercial affairs but created a new body called Board of Control to manage the political affairs. Thus, it established a system of double government.
- It empowered the Board of Control to supervise and direct all operations of the civil and military government or revenues of the British possessions in India.
- Thus, the act was significant for two reasons: first, the Company’s territories in India were for the first time called the ‘British possessions in India’; and second, the British Government was given the supreme control over the Company’s affairs and its administration in India.
Charter Act of 1813
- The Company’s monopoly over Indian trade terminated; Trade with India open to all British subjects.
Charter Act of 1833
- Governor-General (of Bengal) became the Governor-General of India.
- First Governor-General of India was Lord William Bentick.
- This was the final step towards centralization in British India.
- Beginning of a Central legislature for India as the act also took away legislative powers of Bombay and Madras provinces.
- The Act ended the activities of the East India Company as a commercial body and it became a purely administrative body.
Charter Act of 1853
- The legislative and executive functions of the Governor-General’s Council were separated.
- 6 members in Central legislative council. Four out of six members were appointed by the provisional governments of Madras, Bombay, Bengal and Agra.
- It introduced a system of open competition as the basis for the recruitment of civil servants of the Company (Indian Civil Service opened for all).
Government of India Act of 1858
- The rule of Company was replaced by the rule of the Crown in India.
- The powers of the British Crown were to be exercised by the Secretary of State for India
- He was assisted by the Council of India, having 15 members
- He was vested with complete authority and control over the Indian administration through the Viceroy as his agent
- The Governor-General was made the Viceroy of India.
- Lord Canning was the first Viceroy of India.
- Abolished Board of Control and Court of Directors.
Indian Councils Act of 1861 | Evolution Of The Indian Constitution
- It introduced for the first time Indian representation in the institutions like Viceroy’s executive+legislative council (non-official). 3 Indians entered the Legislative council.
- Legislative councils were established in Center and provinces.
- It provided that the Viceroy’s Executive Council should have some Indians as the non-official members while transacting the legislative businesses.
- It accorded statutory recognition to the portfolio system.
- Initiated the process of decentralisation by restoring the legislative powers to the Bombay and the Madras Provinces.
India Council Act of 1892
- Introduced indirect elections (nomination).
- Enlarged the size of the legislative councils.
- Enlarged the functions of the Legislative Councils and gave them the power of discussing the Budget and addressing questions to the Executive.
Indian Councils Act of 1909 (Morley- Minto Reform)
- Direct elections to legislative councils; first attempt at introducing a representative and popular element.
- It changed the name of the Central Legislative Council to the Imperial Legislative Council.
- The member of the Central Legislative Council was increased to 60 from 16.
- Introduced a system of communal representation for Muslims by accepting the concept of ‘separate electorate’.
- Indians for the first time in Viceroys executive council. (Satyendra Prasanna Sinha, as the law member)
Government of India Act of 1919 (Montague-Chelmsford reform- Magna Carta of India) | Evolution Of The Indian Constitution
- The Central subjects were demarcated and separated from those of the Provincial subjects.
- The scheme of dual governance, ‘Dyarchy’, was introduced in the Provincial subjects.
- Under the dyarchy system, the provincial subjects were divided into two parts – transferred and reserved. On reserved subjects, Governor was not responsible to the Legislative council.
- The Act introduced, for the first time, bicameralism at the center.
- Legislative Assembly with 140 members and Legislative council with 60 members.
- Direct elections.
- The Act also required that the three of the six members of the Viceroy’s Executive Council (other than Commander-in-Chief) were to be Indians.
- Provided for the establishment of the Public Service Commission.
Government of India Act of 1935
- The Act provided for the establishment of an All-India Federation consisting of the Provinces and the Princely States as units, though the envisaged federation never came into being.
- Three Lists: The Act divided the powers between the Centre and the units into items of three lists, namely the Federal List, the Provincial List and the Concurrent List.
- The Federal List for the Centre consisted of 59 items, the Provincial List for the provinces consisted of 54 items and the Concurrent List for both consisted of 36 items
- The residuary powers were vested with the Governor-General.
- The Act abolished the Dyarchy in the Provinces and introduced ‘Provincial Autonomy’.
- It provided for the adoption of Dyarchy at the Centre.
- Introduced bicameralism in 6 out of 11 Provinces.
- These six Provinces were Assam, Bengal, Bombay, Bihar, Madras and the United Province.
- Provided for the establishment of Federal Court.
- Abolished the Council of India.
Indian Independence Act of 1947
- It declared India as an Independent and Sovereign State.
- Established responsible Governments at both the Centre and the Provinces.
- Designated the Viceroy India and the provincial Governors as the Constitutional (normal heads).
- It assigned dual functions (Constituent and Legislative) to the Constituent Assembly and declared this dominion legislature as a sovereign body.