(Last Updated on : 04/06/2012)
British Raj upon India is counted as an extensive period of 200 years, which can most certainly be looked at a significant period in both Indian history and world history. British advent to India sounded an ominous alarm and end to the majestic Mughal rule in India, ushering in the surreptitious policy of divide and rule. Since the beginnings of the British East India Company
, Indian population had started to witness a vast deviation from a proper way of administration. The English aim was only to drain out Indian manual labour and money, taking it back to their country and earning a fortune. In this ongoing process, not unknown to any Indian, Indians had stood up to put up a brave front. Each part of the country was slowly going up in flames, with a unanimous call to have a free India, to determine `swaraj`. Bloodshed, brutality and loss of lives are perhaps still not accounted for, when these freedom fighters and nationalists are spoken of. Their tremendous hard try to make India and its future generation a secured place to live in, had truly made British supremacy worried.
With people like Subash Chandra Bose
, Mahatma Gandhi
, Bal Gangadhar Tilak
, Bhagat Singh
, Lala lajpat Rai
, Gopal Krishna Gokhale
and the umpteen other revolutionists, India was never in dearth of intelligence and brains. Hence, a middling policy or understanding was sometimes reached at. Yet, the towering fact remains that British policy to repress, quash or bog down Indians striving towards freedom, was indeed one of shame. No work that seemed injuring British sentiment could ever be done publicly; private endeavours to seek a free India by various methods were always sought after, leading to further complications. Publishing of newspapers were considered unlawful, holding protest marches or fasting were considered unlawful, in short, every attempt were always `propaganda` to the British tormenters.
Herein comes the significant application of acts by British administration upon such Indian `seditious` works and deeds. These British Indian Acts numbered huge, covering almost every sphere of living. Each act was devoted to their special wing, whether it was regarding reforms, ruling, indigo plantation, press, education, land or issuing of charters. The British Indian acts can perfectly be viewed as their desperate effort to secure a solid position in the conquered country, owing to a continuous thought of being ousted any day. A ruling government can never be questioned by the common mass and here it is concerned with British verses Indians. Hence, the East India Company had their Viceroy-Generals to advocate specific acts, followed by Queen Victoria`s later acts, getting more merciless by each day. The sadistic pleasure these men earned by governing such cruel policies, is perhaps not unknown to any Indian.
British Indian Acts counted several in number, progressing by each year and century. New administrative purposes were served by these policies; a successful colonisation can also be viewed by improvisation of British Indian acts. The beginnings of the harsh acts are primarily traced in the wake of Sepoy Mutiny
, post 1857, when India had already woken up to battle cry, with Mangal Pandey
paving the way. However, East India Company did also try hard to achieve a common commercial goal and strike a middling pact. During the ongoing Company administration in the 18th century, they had introduced some substantial acts, primarily based on regulations and lands.
The Regulating Act of 1773
was enacted to primarily weed out corruption in the British East India Company. The Company officials had at the foremost, turned glutton for money and running corruption in policies. As a result, the company itself was incurring huge losses, making the parliament from England to induce the Regulating Act in 1773. It had laid down specific and drastic rules for officials and the Company itself. In fact, these strictures had eventually led to the impeachment of first Governor-General Warren Hastings. The Amending Act of 1781
had come as a sequential outcome to the previous Regulating Act. The Amending Act was passed in the urgency that East India Company rule was still not in line with British administration back in England. Situation in India was turning even worse. Jurisdictions,
limitations were thus imposed upon the law-governors, stating down the powers of the Supreme Court. The Governor-General in Council was also handed over ultimate power, bestowing upon him the onus to look deep into each matter. The Pitt`s India Act of 1784
was the enactment of the British Parliament to bring the administration of the British East India Company under the direct control of the British Government. All these highly emergency British Indian Acts came as the shameful rule of the Company officials in India, confiscating wealth into their pockets, thereby making Company administration penniless. Hence, the Pitt`s Act was passed, yet again to rectify ruling as immediate cause.
Lord Cornwallis was appointed as the next Governor-General to Hastings by this law, stating down additional measures, like establishing a Secret Committee, or establishing sweeter relations with native Indians and striving towards a `permanent settlement`. Next in line of British Indian acts was the Permanent Settlement Act of 1793
, which introduced the system of land tax. Though this legendary rule of law by Lord Cornwallis had its ill effects, like the zamindar class being empowered with total power, yet, the settlement act had its good sides. The Mughal system of diwani was abolished and landowners in India were gifted with total control of their land. Even small landowners were not left unnoticed. An even system of revenue earning for the East India Company was established, as well as commercialisation. To add to the list of British Indian Acts in 18th century, came the Charters Act of 1793
, which had surprisingly endowed British government and governor-generals special power to elect and carry out trade and commerce for another 20 years.
As time progressed, British ruling progressed towards a stricter method. Opposition from every corner of India poured in, leading to a birth of a new century and new policies and freedom crusaders. Company rule still dominated India, with English rule from England and retrieving measures taking a backseat. The foremost British Indian act in the 19th century was the Charter Act of 1813
, reinstating British governmental rules and policies, making the charter act slightly tilted towards Company officials. The concept of laissez-faire was introduced for the first time in India, making English tradesmen landing on eastern soil even more. The system of monopoly was somewhat averted by this act of 1813. The Charter Act of 1833
was succeeding in line to the previous British Indian act. The present act carried considerable importance and weightage, which had ultimately led to India being touched by Industrial Revolution back in England, with the emergence of a `class-consciousness`, making an impact upon the Company rulers.
The 1833 charter act significantly bestowed centralised power on India and the government was essentially broadened. Judicial members were also added in, amending yet another clause to view Indians and English residents as same and equal under rule of law. The Charter Act of 1853
was enacted in the wake of a timely renewal of 20 years for each Charter Act. British pressure and oppression was strengthened even more, however complete eyewash. However, Company rule and its rulers were seen in diminished light and order, bestowing even less privileges. The centralised power was given a thought in this act, with contemplation of divided power for separate ruling. Executive and legislative ruling were also planned to be separated, owing to vastness of India. Secretary of State were proposed to be elected, as well as top ranking coveted posts in the administration were made competitive, where no discrimination was to be made during examinations. British Indian act in the form of the Indian Councils Act of 1861
was the first ever attempt by Lord Canning
to divide executive ruling from the legislative council, which had kind of become a separate parliament by itself. In this manner, Canning had ushered in the cabinet system of government in India, inducing separate and divided members for each governmental section. The three presidency cities (Bengal, Bombay and Madras) were given special administrative privilege, along with Punjab
, always laying stress on local necessities and emergencies. The Indian Evidence Act of 1872 was another Act, deserving a special mention. It was passed by the British Parliament, containing a set of rules regarding admissibility of any evidence in the Indian court of law. Still retaining that same system of British administration in judicial governance to this day, this act laid down an established set of evidences, which would determine any kind of accused, irrespective of class. The Dramatic Performances Act
of 1876was created as a hurried law, which tended to completely repress and quash theatrical performances on-stage by the revolting Indians. Dinabandhu Mitra
`s `Nildarpan` had sparked off it all, with continuous English warning and beatings to put an end to such seditious enacting against one`s own government. The Vernacular Press Act of 1878
was to come next in succession under British Indian acts, with firm intentions to stifle the periodicals in Indian languages. Initiated by Viceroy Lord Lytton
by calling up a serious association of British officials, it was decided that Indian revolutionists were surreptitiously spreading anti-British sentiments through propaganda in their newspapers. However, this act was looked at as utterly controversial in its being passed, which was eventually withdrawn. The Bengal Tenancy Act of 1884-1885 was formulated under Lord Dufferin
, which spoke for some facilities and lax for the tenant cultivator, as well as the zamindar class of people. 19th century saw further implementation of British Indian acts, in the form of the Indian Council Act, 1892
, which was in all respects, a cut above the previous Indian Council Act of 1861. The present act in 1892 had vastly increased the powers of Indian legislature, with the system of election being introduced for the very first time. The legislative councils in India, the provincial governments in the three presidency cities (Bengal, Bombay, Madras) were also looked into, lending specific powers.
The 20th century dawned in the ultimate fight for freedom and to take India towards a new light of education and intelligence. Everywhere people had become aware of the British social class and their condescension towards building a successful colony. Some of the `natives` even were biased and followers of the British class, scornfully classified as the `Babu` class with a constant aping of English cultures and lives. Yet, the overriding population had joined hands towards a common call for `swaraj`, striving towards independence. Protest marches, total abstaining from British law in courts or functions, led to mass death by hanging or shots at point-blank range. None could be deterred, which further aggravated British Indian acts to be formulated by English law-makers in extreme emergency. The first British Indian act to come in line in the dawn of the early 20th century was Indian Universities Acts
in 1904, which had laid down certain specific educational rules for Indians studying in colleges or universities, ushering a new era of Indian educational system. Indian Newspaper Act, 1908
was formulated in the wake of the tremendous popularity of Indian National Congress
, which was primary in spreading of inflammatory news through press in pan-Indian viewpoint. The most crucial of all these British Indian acts is the Government of India Act of 1909
, commonly known as Morley-Minto Reforms Act
that allowed Indians to be elected to the various legislative councils. A unified parliamentary system was also introduced by this rule of law, which had fallen horrible critical scanner. The Press Act of 1914 was a legislation promulgated in British India, imposing rigorous censorship on all kinds of publication. Two more British Indian acts were introduced in 1919. British government passed The Rowlatt Act of 1919
in March, in order to control public unrest and root out conspiracy. Still considered as the most shameful and ill-formulated act against helpless Indians, the Rowlatt rule of law had ordered arresting every man without prior warning or fair trial. Protest marches and associations had reached its peak under this act, which had led to the infamous and legendary Jalianwalabagh Amritsar massacre
, under General Reginald Dyer. The Government of India Act of 1919
was passed for administrative purposes.
Designed by Sir Montagu and Lord Chelmsford, the act had laid down the essential system of a diarchy government, with separate administration for state and centre. The Indian Press (Emergency) Act
was enacted in 1931-32, under troubling agitations through the Civil Disobedience Movement, which had paved way for further press seditions and propaganda. Hence, this law was enforced to deliberately bog down press publications. The Government of India Act of 1935
was to arrive next in succession under British Indian acts, which granted Indian provinces the system of autonomy. The rules thus stated by the English rulers back in England, had meticulously laid down the system of parliament, legislature and governmental separation of centre and states. After significant movements, political battles, cold war in the administration front, accompanied by fantastic pressure from Indian nationalists, it was time for English monarchy to realise that colonisation would come to no use; it was customary that India must be freed. The last phase during the 1940s paved way for the Indian Independence Act of 1947
, which after 200 years of toil and blood and history, granted complete independence to India as a whole. The agreement was planned with Lord Mountbatten, which also stated the partition of India, after yielding of the political parties. Regulations were laid down, with British official forces leaving Indian by midnight of August 15, 1947.