Indian Councils Act 1861

The Indian Councils Act of 1861 was a significant piece of legislation passed by the British Parliament that brought about important changes in the governance of British India following the Indian Rebellion of 1857.

Features of Indian Council Act, 1861

Provisions of Indian Council Act, 1861

1. The Indian Council Act added to the Viceroy's Executive Council, a fifth member who had to be an expert in 'finance' and 'law'.

2. The Act empowered the Viceroy and Governor-General to make rules for the convenient transaction of business by the executive council and authorized any one member to discharge the duties in his absence. The Act also introduced the Portfolio System under which the departments of Government were divided between the members of the council.

3. For the purpose of the legislation, the Viceroy's executive council was expanded by an addition of not less than six and not more than twelve members. The Governor General nominated them for two years. Half of the members were non-officials and mostly Indian. Obviously, only those Indians who were loyal to the British rule.

4. The Council was responsible for only framing laws. It had no power to interfere in administrative functions. For resolutions on revenue, religion, army, and public loan, the council had to seek permission from the Governor-General. The Governor-General had the power of veto against any bill of the council. The council was authorized to issue ordinances which could last six months. But before six months, the Secretary of State or Governor-General were authorized to declare it null and void.

5. The Act authorized the Governor-General to divide any presidency or province or alter its boundaries. He was also authorized to create a new province and appoint a Lieutenant Governor.

6. The Act, once again, empowered the governors of Madras and Bombay Presidencies to frame laws. They were authorized to appoint one Advocate General and a minimum of four and a maximum of eight members in the council.

7. No division was made between the union list and the state list. But most of the important subjects like loans, revenue, currency, post and telegraph services, religion, patents, and copyrights of books were kept under the central government.

Demerits of Indian Council Act, 1861

1. Indian members, though nominated, had no real powers. They were merely witnesses in the process of framing the law.

2. Not a representative body— the legislative council was not a representative body of the masses but consisted only of men of native rulers or big Zamindars who were loyal to the British and were nominated to the council.

3. The Viceroy had the power of veto. No bill passed by the legislative council could become an Act without the approval of the Viceroy, thus making the individual more powerful than the institution.

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