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Pitt’s India Act of 1784

Pitt’s India Act of 1784

Introduction

  • The Pitt’s India Act, 1784 also called the East India Company Act, 1784 was passed by the British Parliament to correct the defects of the Regulating Act of 1773.
  • This act resulted in dual control of British possessions in India by the British government and the Company with the final authority resting with the government.
  • This act continued in effect until 1858.

Provisions

  • For political matters, the Board of Control was created and for commercial affairs, the Court of Directors was appointed.
  • The Board of Control took care of civil and military affairs. It comprised of 6 people:
    • Secretary of State (Board President)
    • Chancellor of the Exchequer
    • Four Privy Councillors
  • In this dual system of control, the company was represented by the Court of Directors and the British government by the Board of Control.
  • The act mandated that all civil and military officers disclose their property in India and Britain within two months of their joining.
  • The Governor-General’s council’s strength was reduced to three members. One of the three would be the Commander-in-Chief of the British Crown’s army in India.
  • The Governor-General was given the right of veto.
  • The Presidencies of Madras and Bombay became subordinate to the Bengal Presidency. In effect, Calcutta became the capital of the British possessions in India.

Features

  • 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 Company’s affairs and its administration in India.

Drawbacks

  • The Pitt’s India Act was deemed a failure. This was because; very soon it became apparent that the boundaries between government control and the company’s powers were nebulous and highly subjective. The British Government felt obliged to respond to humanitarian calls for better treatment of local peoples in British-occupied territories. The Board of control was alleged for nepotism. The act was a naive one, it divided the responsibility between the Board of Control, Court of Directors and the Governor General in Council but again without fixing the clear cut boundaries. The powers fixed were subjective and not objective.                                      Pitt’s India Act of 1784

Significance

  • The Act was significant for two reasons. Firstly, the company’s territories in India were for the first time called the ‘British possession in India’ and secondly, British Government was given the supreme control over Company’s affairs and its administration in India.                              Pitt’s India Act of 1784

 

Indian Polity

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