Historical Background to Indian Polity

Hi Fellas,
We're starting with the polity series for SSC CGL 2016 exam. We'll cover all important areas related to Indian Polity which have repeatedly been asked in SSC, CAPF and other government exams. The aim is to keep the information short
and crisp as most of the times direct questions are asked unlike UPSC and other higher exams where a bit of analytical depth is required.

Historical Background to Constitution

The time period between 1773-1858 is termed as the Company Rule and between 1858-1947 is termed as the Crown Rule. A series of acts and events were responsible for shaping up Indian Polity as it was at the time of freedom. A brief gist of all the Acts with their features are as follows:

 Regulating Act, 1773

  • Political and administrative functions of the East India Company (EIC or Company) were recognized for first time. 
  • Governor of Bengal was designated as Governor General (GG) of Bengal ( 1st GG - Lord Warren Hastings)
  • It provided for establishment of supreme court in Calcutta in 1774. 
  • Governors of Madras and Bombay Presidencies were made subordinate to GG of Bengal. 

Pitt's India act,1784

  •  It distinguished between political and commercial functions of the company. 
  • Established a system of double government i.e different entities to handle commercial and political affairs. 
  • Company's territories in India were called British Possessions for the first time. 

Charter's Act, 1833

  • GG of Bengal was made Governor General of India (GGI) with all civil and military powers vested in him. (Lord William Bentick - first GGI)
  • GGI was given exclusive legislative powers for entire British India, depriving Governors of Bombay and Madras of their legislative powers. 
  • Ended the commercial activities of the company and made it a purely administrative body.

Charter's Act, 1853

  • Legislative and Executive functions of Governor General's council were separated for first time. 
  • Introduced an open competitive system of selection and recruitment of civil services. (Lord Macaulay's committee on India Civil Service, 1854)
  • Local representation was introduced for the first time in Central Legislative Council. 

Government of India Act, 1858 

  • EIC abolished and powers transferred to British Crown.
  • Designation of Governor General of India changed to Viceroy who was a direct representative of British Crown in India. 
  • Ended the system of double government as est. by Pitt's India act, 1784.
  • A new office of Secretary  of State was created who was a member of British Cabinet and was responsible to British Parliament. 

Indian Council's Act , 1861

  • Made a beginning of representative institutions i.e Viceroy to nominate some Indians as non official members of his expanded council. 
  • Initiated the process of decentralization by restoring legislative powers of Bombay and Madras Presidencies.
  • Establishment of new legislative councils for Bengal, North West Frontier Province and Punjab.
  • Empowered the Viceroy to issue ordinances in times of emergencies. 

Indian Council's Act, 1892

  • Gave legislative councils the power to discuss budget.
  •  Provided for nomination to legislative councils on recommendation of certain bodies. 

Indian Council's Act, 1909 (Morely-Minto Reforms)*

  •  Enlarged the functions of legislative council at both level i.e Central and provincial. They could ask supplementary questions and move resolutions on budget. 
  • Indians could associate with executive council of Viceroy and Governor. Styendra Prasad Sinha became the first person to join Viceroy's executive council. 
  • Introduced a system of communal representation for Muslims by accepting the concept of separate electorate. Lord Minto came be to known as father of communal electorate

Government of India Act, 1919 (Montague-Chelmsford Reforms)*

  • Introduced Central and Provincial subjects. Legislatures at both level could make laws on their respective subjects. 
  • Provincial subjects further divided into two parts- transferred and reserved. In other words, it introduced dual governance, also called Dyarchy. 
  • Introduced for first time bicameralism and direct elections in the country. Central legislative council was replaced by Upper House (Council of States) and Lower House (Legislative Assembly)
  • It provided for separate electorates to Sikhs, Indian Christians, Anglo Indians and Europeans.
  • Created a new office of High Commissioner for India in London.
  • Provided for establishment of Public Service Commission in 1926 for recruiting civil servants. 
  • Separated provincial budgets from central budgets.

Government of India Act, 1935*

  • Provided for establishment of an All India Federation consisting of Provinces and Princely States as units. 
  • Divided the powers between centre and units into 3 lists - Federal List (Centre), Provincial List (Provinces) and Concurrent List (Both)
  • Abolished Dyarchy in Provinces and introduced Provincial Autonomy. 
  • Introduced Bicameralism in 6 major provinces (Bengal, Bombay, Madras, Bihar, Assam, United Provinces)
  • Provided separate electorates for scheduled castes, women and laborers.
  • Provided for establishment of Reserve Bank of India.
  • Provided for provincial public service commissions

  Note- starred (*) items are deemed important

GK fact of the day

Watson and Crick proposed Double Helical Structure of DNA in 1953.

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