Indian Councils Act 1892

The Indian Council Act of 1861 had many shortcomings, as discussed above. Nationalist feelings were growing in the late 19th century among the educated middle class. The Congress party, formed in 1885, started demanding, among other things, the expansion and Indianization of the legislative council. Congress leaders also demanded the right to ask questions in the legislative council on any subject and the right to discussion on the Budget. Lord Dufferin, the Governor-General of India between 1884 and 1988, wanted to give more seats to western-educated Indians than the traditional, orthodox Indian rulers. He appointed a committee headed by Sir John Chenny. The committee recommended that the legislative council should be developed as a 'mini parliament.' The Congress party regularly passed resolutions in its annual sessions to restructure the legislative council. Leading newspapers also raised similar demands. Lord Dufferin sent a suggestion, based on the Chenny committee's report, to the Home Government. On Dufferin's suggestion, the British Government passed the Indian Council Act, 1892.

Indian Council Act received Royal Assent on June 20, 1892, commenced on February 3, 1893, and was later repealed by the Government of India Act, 1915.

Features of Indian Council Act, 1892

Provisions of Indian Council Act, 1892

1. The central legislative council was expanded. The number of additional members in the central legislative council was increased to a minimum of 10 and a maximum of 16; for Madras and Bombay, the minimum was 10 and the maximum was 20; for Bengal, the maximum was 20, whereas, for the North-West province (U.P), the maximum was 15.

2. The Council was to have three types of members:

  • Official members
  • Non-official members who were nominated
  • Non-official members who were nominated on the recommendation of non-official members of the four provincial legislatures of Madras, Bombay, Bengal, and the North-West province (U.P), and one by the associated chamber of commerce.

The Provincial Legislature, Municipalities, District Boards, universities, and the chamber of commerce were empowered to elect members. Thus, the principle of election, though indirect, was introduced through the Indian Council Act, 1892.

3. Members of the legislative council could ask questions from the Executive on public interest after giving six-day notice and were allowed to discuss the Budget. But they were not allowed to discuss the answer given by the Executive. The speaker was empowered to reject the demand of asking questions from any member without giving any reason.

4. The Viceroy was empowered to make rules for the nomination of members, but he had to seek provisions from the Secretary of State.

Although the Indian Council Act, 1892, was an expansion of the Indian Council Act, 1861, it failed to satisfy the rising educated Indian class. The executive body was not answerable before the legislative council. Members of the legislative council were not allowed to 'vote' on the Budget; they could only ask questions about it. They were not even allowed to ask questions on the answers given by the executive. Indians had to wait another seventeen years for any constitutional package.

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