Charter Act 1833

The 20 years renewal of the charter in 1813 ran out in 1833. This was the time for the government to do a careful assessment of the functioning of the company in India. The charter was renewed for another 20 years, but the company was asked to close its commercial business.

  • Thus, this time the charter was renewed on the condition that Company should abandon its trade entirely, alike with India and China, and permit Europeans to settle freely in India.
  • The company lost its monopoly in China and also the trade of tea which it enjoyed with Charter act of 1813.

India as a British Colony:

The charter act of 1813 legalized the British colonization of India and the territorial possessions of the company were allowed to remain under its government, but were held "in trust for his majesty, his heirs and successors” for the service of Government of India.

  • This act made the Governor General of Bengal the Governor General of British India and all financial and administrative powers were centralized in the hands of Governor General-in-Council.
  • Thus with Charter Act of 1833, Lord William Bentinck became the “First Governor General of British India”.
  • The number of the members of the Governor General’s council was again fixed to 4, which had been reduced by the Pitt’s India act. However, certain limits were imposed on the functioning of the 4th member.
  • The 4th member was NOT entitled to act as a member of the council except for legislative purposes.

First fourth person to be appointed as the member of the Council was Lord Macaulay.

Split in Bengal Presidency:

The Charter Act of 1833 provided for splitting the Presidency of Bengal, into two presidencies which were to be known as

  1. Presidency of Fort William
  2. Presidency of Agra.

But this provision never came into effect, and was suspended later.

Enhanced Power of Governor General of India

Charter act of 1833 distinctly spelt out the powers of the Governor-General-in-Council. He could repeal, amend or alter any laws or regulations including all persons (whether British or native or foreigners), all places and things in every part of British territory in India, for all servants of the company, and articles of war.

  • However, the Court of Directors acting under the Board of control could veto any laws made by the Governor-General-in-Council.

Codifying the Laws:

  • The charter act of 1833 is considered to be an attempt to codify all the Indian Laws. The British parliament as a supreme body, retained the right to legislate for the British territories in India and repeal the acts.
  • The act of 1833 provided that all laws made in India were to be laid before the parliament and were to be known as Acts.
  • In a step towards codifying the laws, the Governor-General-in-Council was directed under the Charter act of 1833, to set up an Indian law Commission.

First Indian Law Commission

  • So the first law commission was set up by the Charter act of 1833 and Lord Macaulay was its most important member and Chairman.

The other members of this commission were English barrister Cameron, Macleod of Madras service, William Anderson of Bombay Service and Sir William McNaughton of the Calcutta Service. Sir William McNaughton did not accept the appointment.

  • The objectives of the law commission was to inquire into the Jurisdiction, powers and rules of the courts of justice police establishments, existing forms of judicial procedure, nature and operation of all kinds of laws. It was directed that the law Commission shall submit its report to the Governor General-in-council and this report was to be placed in the British parliament.

Indians in the Government service:

  • The section 87 of the Charter Act of 1833, declared that "Normative of the British Territories in India, NOR any natural Boon subject of "His majesty" therein, shall by any reason only by his religion, place of birth, descent, color or any of them be disabled from holding any place, office or employment under the company"
  • This policy was not seen in any other previous acts. So the Charter act of 1833 was the first act which provisioned to freely admit the natives of India to share an administration in the country.

Mitigation of Slavery:

  • This act also directed the Governor General-in-Council to adopt measures to mitigate the state of slavery, persisting in India since sultanate Era.
  • The Governor General-in-Council was also directed to pay attention to laws of marriage, rights and authorities of the heads of the families, while drafting any laws.

More Bishops:

  • The number of British residents was increasing in India.
  • The charter act of 1833 laid down regulation of establishment of Christian establishments in India and the number of Bishops was made 3.