This Act was enacted in the wake of the revolt of 1857. Also known as an act for ‘Good governance of India’. It abolished the East India Company and transferred powers of the government, territories, and revenues to the British Government.
- East India Company was not performing well in controlling and administrating the Indian colony. There was widespread resentment against the company’s policies such as revenue policy or acquisition policy.
- Revolt of 1857 came as a jolt to British Colonialism in South Asia.
- Hence, Parliament in Britain decided to take over the power and control of India from the company.
- British Crown’s sovereignty: Indian territories of Britain were to be governed in the name of the British Queen. This will be done with Court of Directors and Board of Control being scrapped (No more private control on Indian territories).
- Secretary of State: He (vested with powers of Court of Directors) was to be a British Member of Parliament and a Prime Minister’s cabinet member. He was to be assisted by a council of 15 members. He was a mediator between British government in Britain and Indian administration.
- He also had the power to send secret dispatches to India without consulting his council. Through the Secretary of State’s office, British parliament could ask questions regarding Indian affairs.
- Lord Stanley was the First Secretary of State for India.
- Commander-in-Chief of Army was made an extraordinary member of the Council. Law member was to be a barrister and the other three were covenanted servants of the Company.
- Governor General: He was representative of British government in India and acted as Viceroy (in case of relations with Princely states). Viceroys and governors of the various presidencies were appointed by Crown.
- Viceroy was to be assisted by an Executive Council.
- Lord Canning was first Governor General-cum-Viceroy.
- Abolitions: This act abolished dual government of Pitt’s India Act 1784, doctrine of lapse and administrative rights of the company.
- Princely states: It was decided that remaining Indian princes and chiefs (more than 560 in number) would have their independent status provided they accept British suzerainty.
Queen’s Proclamation of 1858
- There will be no further acquisition of territories in India by British.
- Indian princely states will recognise the paramountcy of the British Crown and were to be treated as parts of a single charge.
- Indians were promised the freedom of religion without interference.
- Equal and impartial protection under law to all Indians.
- Led to the stopping of forced annexation of Indian Princely states.
- Now the British Government directly can be held responsible for any administrative wrong in India.
- This Act merely changed the ruler but not the governance system in India because exploitation and oppression of the masses continued even after enactment of this act.
- Promise of not annexing Indian Princely state proved a false promise because British adopted any possible method to engulf increased territories in India even after 1857.