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Government of India Act 1858

Government of India Act 1858

The War of Independence 1857 was an event of great importance in the history of the Indian sub-continent. After this war the British policy towards Indians changed drastically, especially as far as constitutional development was concerned. For the purpose of addressing the grievances of the Indian population a new Act was introduced in India by the Crown in 1858. The Act was passed by the British Parliament on 2nd August 1858. The main Provisions of the Act of 1858 were as follows:

1. The rule of British East India Company was abolished and the Government of India was directly taken over by the Crown with Queen Victoria as the supreme monarch.
2. The Crown was empowered to appoint a Governor-General and the Governors of the Presidencies.
3. The Court of Directors and the Board of Control were abolished and their place was taken over by the Secretary of State for Indian Affairs and the India Council.
4. Extensive powers were given to the Secretary of State for Indian Affairs and the Indian Council consisted of 15 members. The Council was made to assist him but only had an advisory role.
5. The people of India were promised their rights by Queen Victoria under this Act.
Complete freedom of religion was ensured and gradual participation in the administration of the country was also proclaimed.
6. Pardon was given to all the Indians except those who had killed British people.
The Act said that the princes of the states could retain their former status and all agreements with the princes will be honoured.
7. Doctrine of Lapse was discarded under this Act.

According to this Act the Secretary of State for Indian Affairs was given extensive powers. He was not answerable to anyone. He could do whatever he wants to do. Neither Parliament nor Indian Council could bind him for taking any action; both of these institutions were not given the power to put limits on his extensive powers. Moreover the promises that were made by Queen Victoria were never fulfilled by her. The Indian people were not given their due rights that were promised to them under this Act.

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