The two main events that led to the formation of the Charter Act of 1853 were the Raja Ram Mohan Roy’s visit to England and the petitions of Bombay and the Madras Native Associations. On the basis of the reports made by the Select Committees of Enquiry in 1852, this Act was formed. The Act for the first time introduced Local Representation in the Central Legislative Council.
History of Charter Act of 1853
It had been ideated that the existing legislative system under the Charter Act of 1833 was completely inadequate. Moreover after the Acts of 1833 there were territorial and political changes in India. The British East Indian Company had already annexed Sind and Punjab and a number of other Indian states.
Gradually there were demands of the decentralization of power and for giving the Indian people the shares in the administration. It was under these circumstances that the British parliament decided to renew the East India Company’s charter in the year 1853. The Company in the preceding year appointed two Committees to look into the affairs of the Company. On the basis of their reports the Charter Act of 1853 was framed and passed.
Unlike the previous charter acts of 1793, 1813 and 1833 which renewed the charter for 20 years; this Act did not mention the time period for which the Company charter was being renewed. The Charter Act of 1853 was passed when Lord Dalhousie was the Governor General of India.
Purpose of Charter Act of 1853
The Charter Act of 1853 renewed the powers of the Company and allowed it to retain territories and revenues of Indian territories in trust for the crown. However, this Charter Act did not grant commercial privileges for the specific period of time as preceding Charter Acts had provided.
Features of Charter Act of 1853
The Charter Act of 1853 provided that the salaries of the members of the Boards of controls, its Secretary and other officers would be fixed by the British government but would be paid by the Company.
The number of the members of the court of directors was reduced from 24 to 18 out of which 6 were to be nominated by the Crown. By the Act of 1853, the Court of directors was disposed of their power of patronage and the high posts were made subjects to the competitive examinations where no discriminations would be made on the basis of caste, creed and religion. The Macaulay Committee of 1854, which was the Committee for the Indian Civil Service, enforced this scheme.
The Court of directors was empowered to constitute a new Presidency. The court of Directors, by the Act also could alter the boundaries of the existing states and incorporate the newly acquired state. This provision was made to create a separate Lieutenant Governorship for Punjab in the year 1859. The Act also empowered the crown to appoint a Law commission in England to examine the reports and the drafts of the Indian law commission.
The Charter Act of 1853 was a compromise between 2 conflicting views. Those who favoured the retentions of the Company's territorial authority were satisfied by the provisions of the Charter Act of 1853.
The newly formed Legislative council threatened to alter the whole structures of the Indian government. Thus the Legislative Council denied the provisions made by the Charter Acts of 1853. The glaring defect of the Charters Act of 1853 was the continued exclusion of the people of the land with the work of legislation. However, the Charter Act of 1853 strengthened the oppressive policy of the British Government in India.
Significance of Charter Act of 1853
The Charter Act of 1853 indicated clearly that the rule of the Company was not going to last for a long time. With the power and influence of the Company were curtailed, the British Crown could nominate 6 directors. The Charter Act of 1853 further marks the beginning of the Parliamentary system in India because of the key feature that Legislative Council was clearly distinguished from the Executive Council. The Governor General was relieved of the administrative duties of Bengal and instead worked for the Government of India.