The Republic of India is governed by the Constitutional Framework of India, which was adopted by the Constituent Assembly on November 26, 1949 and came into force on January 26, 1950. The Constitution of India seeks to protect the fundamental, political and civil rights of the people. It also embodies the basic governance structure of the country.
The Constitution of India provides for a Parliamentary form of Government, which is federal in structure with certain unitary features. The historical background of Constitutional Framework of India can be classified in two brief periods:
- The Company Rule (1773-1858)
- The Crown Rule (1858-1947)
Each of these periods have undergone a number of reforms that have led to the development of today’s constitution. The following details explains the various reforms in these periods that lead to the development of Constitutional Framework of India.
THE COMPANY RULE (1773-1858)
1. The Regulating Act of 1773
- Governor of Bengal was made Governor-General of Bengal(4 member Executive Council to assist him).
- Lord Warren Hasting was the first such Governor-General.
- It made governors of Bombay and Madras presidencies subordinate to Governor-General of Bengal.
- Establishment of Supreme Court at Calcutta (1774) comprising 1 Chief Justice and 3 other judges.
- Importance: (a) first step of British Govt. to control the affairs of EIC in India. (b) laid the foundation of central administration in India. (c) for the first time recognized the political and administrative functions of the Company.
2. Pitt’s India Act of 1784
- It allowed Court of Directors to manage the commercial affairs but created Board of Control(all the operations of the civil and military govt. or revenues of British possession in India were given to it) to manage the political affairs (a system of double government).
- Importance: (a) company’s territories in India for the first time called the “British Possession in India”. (b) British govt was given the supreme control over EIC’s affairs and its administration in India.
3. Charter Act of 1813
- Company’s monopoly over trade ended except the trade in Tea and with China.
- Powers of Board of Control was further enlarged.
- A sum of 1 lakh rupees was to be set aside every year to promote education.
- The constitutional position of the British territories in India was thus explicitly defined for the first time.
- Christian missionaries were also allowed to come to India to preach their religion.
4. Charter Act of 1833
- The Company’s monopoly on trade with China and tea also stopped.
- Indian territories were to be ruled in Crown’s name.
- A law member was added to the governor-general’s council.
- Governor-General of Bengal was made the Governor-General of India and was vested with all civil and military powers.(Lord William Bentick was the first governor-general of India).
- The act made EIC a purely administrative body by ending its commercial touch.
- It deprived the governors of Bengal and Madras of their legislative powers.
- The act tried to establish an open competition scheme for the choice of civil servants and indicated that the Indians should not be debarred from holding any location, office and jobs under the Company.
5. Charter Act of 1853
- Provided for the addition of 6 new members called legislative Councillors to the council and thus known as Indian Legislative Council.
- Civil Services was thrown open to Indians also. Accordingly, the Macaulay Committee ( the Committee on Indian Civil Services) was appointed in 1854.
- For the first time introduced local representation in the Indian Legislative Council.
Related Article : MAKING OF INDIAN CONSTITUTION
THE CROWN RULE (1858-1947)
1. Government of India Act of 1858/ The Act of Good Governance of India.
- Enacted in the wake of Revolt of 1857.
- It abolished the East India Company and transferred powers to British Crown.
- Governor-General of India was to be called as Viceroy of India (direct representative of British crown in India).
- Lord Canning was the first Viceroy of India.
- Abolished Board of Control and Court of Directors, hence ended the system of double government.
- It created a new office of Secretary of State for India, vested with complete authority and control over Indian Administration.
- 15-member council (advisory body) to assist the Secretary of State for India.
2. Indian Council Act of 1861
- It specified that Viceroy should nominate some Indians as his extended council’s non-official representatives, and thus 3 Indians — the Raja of Benaras, the Maharaja of Patiala, and Sir Dinkar Rao — were nominated to his parliamentary council.
- It initiated the process of decentralization by restoring the powers to the Bombay and Madras Presidencies.
- New legislative council for Bengal(1862), North Western Frontier Provinces(NWFP) (1866) and Punjab(1897) were established.
- Portfolio Systemwas implemented by Lord Canning in 1859.
3. Indian Council Act of 1892
- It increased the functions of legislative councils and gave them the power to discuss the budget and addressing questions to the executive.
- The act created a restricted and indirect provision to use the election to fill some of the non-official seats in both the Central and Provincial Legislative Councils. The term “election” was not used in the act, however.
4. Indian Council Act of 1909 / The Morley-Minto Reforms
- Lord Morley was the then Secretary of State for India and Lord Minto was the then Viceroy of India.
- It increased the size of the legislative councils, both Central and Provincial.
- It supplied for the association of Indians with the Viceroy and Governors ‘ executive councils. Satyendra Prasad Sinha became the first Indian to join the Viceroy’s Executive Council as a law member.
- It implemented a scheme of community representation for Muslims by adopting the notion of “separate electorate“.”Father of Communal Electorate” was the designation given to Lord Minto for such promotion of communalism.
- It also supplied for the distinct representation of presidential corporations, chambers of commerce, universities and zamindars.
5. Government of India Act of 1919 / The Montague-Chelmsford Reforms
- The act came into force in 1921.
- Montague was India’s Secretary of State, and Lord Chelmsford was India’s Viceroy.
- The act separated the Central and Provincial subjects and central and provincial legislatures were authorised to make laws on their respective list of subjects.
- “DYARCHY” was introduced. Provincial subjects divided into 2 parts: Transferred(to be administered by the governor with the aid of ministers) and Reserved (to be administered by the governor and his executive council without being responsible to legislative council.). The experiment was highly unsuccessful.
- It implemented BICAMERALISM and DIRECT ELECTIONS in the nation for the first time.
- Required that 3 out of 6 members of the Viceroy’s Council to be Indian.
- It provided for the separate electorate for Sikhs, Indian Christians, Anglo-Indians and Europeans.
- It provided for the establishment of a Central Public Service Commission in 1926 for the recruitment of civil servants. (on the recommendation of Lee commission, 1923-24)
- It segregated provincial budgets from the central budget for the first time.
6. SIMON COMMISSION
- The commission was formed because the GOI Act of 1919 had a provision that a commission would be appointed to study the progress of the governance scheme and suggest new steps.
- It was an All-White Commission which was set up by the British government under Stanley Baldwin’s Prime Minsitership on November 8, 1927.
- The commission was to recommend to the British government whether India was ready for further constitutional reforms and along what lines.
- The commission was headed by Sir John Simon, hence the name Simon Commission.
- Members of the Commission include:
- John Simon (Chairman),
- Clement Atlee,
- Harry Levy-Lawson,
- Edward Cadogan,
- Vernon Hartshorn,
- George Lane-Fox,
- Donald Howard.
- Major Recommendations:
- Abolition of Dyarchy and establishment of representative govt. in the provinces which should be given autonomy.
- Rejected the parliamentary responsibility at the centre.
- Governor-general to have complete power to appoint the members of the cabinet.
- Separate communal electorates to be retained but only until tensions between Hindu and Muslims had died down.
- There was no Universal Franchise.
- Accepted the idea of federalism but not in the near future.
- NWFP and Baluchistan should get local legislatures.
- Sindh should be separated from Bombay, and Burma from India as it was not a natural part of Indian Subcontinent.
- Indian army should be Indianised though British forces must be retained.
- The report was not provided the much needed importance and hence was no longer relevant.
7. GOVERNMENT OF INDIA ACT, 1935
- An All India Level Federation to be set up which comprises of all British India provinces, all chief commissioner’s provinces and the Indian states( princely states). The proposed federation, however, was never formed.
1. Federal Level
- The governor-general was the pivot of the entire Constitution.
- Subjects to be divided into : Reserved and Transferred
- Reserved subjects : Foreign affairs, defence, tribal areas and ecclesiastical affairs-were to be administered by the Governor-general on advice of the executive councillors who were not to be responsible to the central legislature.
- Transferred subjects : All other subjects and were to be administered by the governor-general on the advice of ministers who were to be responsible to the federal legislature and were to resign on losing the confidence of the body.
- Bicameral Legislature to have an Upper(partially nominated(60%) and partially directly elected(40%)) and a Lower House(partially nominated (1/3rd)and partially indirectly elected(2/3rd)).
- Council of members (Upper house) to be a permanent body with 1/3rd members retiring every third year and for a duration of 5 years.
- 3 lists purposes were to be federal, provincial and concurrent.
- System of Class-based and religion-based electorates was further extended.
- 80% of the budget was non-votable.
- Governor-general have residuary power by which he could :
- Restore cuts in demands.
- Certify bills rejected by the legislature
- Issue ordinances
- Exercise his veto.
2. Provincial Level
- Provincial autonomy replaced the dyarchy.
- The provinces were granted autonomy and separate legal identity.
- They were given independent financial powers and resources.
- Governor was to be the Crown’s representative to exercise authority.
- He was to have special power regarding minorities, rights of civil servants, law and order, etc
- He could take over and indefinitely run the administration.
- Separate Electorates based on Communal Award were to be made operational.
- All members to be elected directly through Franchise which was further extended to women.
- Ministers were made answerable to and removable by the adverse vote of the legislature.
- Provincial legislature could legislate only on subjects in Provincial and Concurrent list.
- 40% budget was still not votable.
The act provided a rigid constitution with no possibility of internal growth. The British Parliament reserved the right of amendment.
8. INDIAN INDEPENDENCE ACT, 1947
- The Act was passed on 5 July, 1947.
- It was based on the Mountbatten Plan, and the act was implemented on August 15, 1947.
- Provisions of the Act:
- Two independent dominions of India and Pakistan with effect from August 15, 1947.
- Each dominion was to have a governor general to be accountable for the efficient implementation of the Act.
- For the transitional period, i.e., till a new constitution was adopted by each dominion, the govt. of the two dominions were to be carried on in accordance with the Govt. of India Act, 1935.
- As per the Act, Pakistan became independent on August 14,1947 while India got its freedom on next day.
- M.A. Jinnah became the first Governor-General of Pakistan.
- India, however, decided to request Lord Mountbatten to continue as the Governor-General of India.