Indian Councils Act 1892
Indian Councils Act 1892 was passed by the British Parliament to increase in the size of the legislative councils. This act marks the beginning of representative form of Government in India.
Indians were gradually becoming aware of their rights with the growth of nationalism. Indian National Congress had adopted some resolutions in its sessions in 1885 and 1889 and put its demand. The major demands placed were as follows:
- A simultaneous examination of ICS to be held in England and India
- Reforms of the legislative council and adoption of the principle of election in place of nomination
- Opposition to the annexation of Upper Burma
- Reduction in the Military expenditure.
The second demand mentioned above reflected the dissatisfaction of the Indians over the existing system of governance. The Indian leaders wanted admission of a considerable number of the elected members. They also wanted a right to discussion on budget matters. Viceroy Lord Dufferin set up a committee. The committee was given the responsibility to draw a plan for the enlargement of the provincial councils and enhancement of their status. The plan was drawn, but when it was referred to the Secretary of State for India, he did not agree to introduction of the Principle of direct election. However, principle of representation by way of indirect election was accepted with some limitations.
- The act provided for additional members in the central as well as provincial legislative councils.
- Central Legislative Council → minimum 10, maximum 16
- Bombay → 8
- Madras → 20
- Bengal → 20
- North Western province →15
- Oudh →15
- The powers of the legislative councils was increased. The members could now discuss the budget without right to vote on it. They were also not allowed to ask supplementary questions.
- They could ask questions on domestic matters with prior permission of the Governor General. They were also allowed to ask questions on public interest.
- The Governor General in Council was empowered to make rules for nomination of the members subject to approval of Secretary of State for India.
- A system of indirect elections was introduced to elect the members of the councils. The universities, district board, municipalities, zamindars and chambers of commerce were empowered to recommend members to provincial councils.
- Functions of the provincial legislative councils were enlarged and they were empowered to make new laws or repeal the old ones with the prior permission of Governor General.
- Governor General was empowered to fill the seat in the case of Central legislative and by the Governor in the case of provincial legislature.
Critical Appraisal of the Act
The act of 1892 can be said to be a first step towards the beginning of the representative government in India. However such representation was via only indirect elections and there was nothing for a common Indian. The system of indirect election prevented direct contact between the public and the representatives. In many ways, this act also served as a reason behind rise of militant nationalism in coming times. The Congress policy of petition, prayer and protest was seen as a weakness by the British Government. This was evident from the following note by BG Tilak: “……political rights will have to be fought for. The moderates think that these can be won by persuasion. We Think that they can only be obtained by strong Pressure…”
Never the less, the act at least provided the Indians an opportunity to share councils at the highest levels and thus laid down the foundations of the representative government. The number of Indians was increased in the legislative councils. The Act was an important milestone that led to the establishment of parliamentary government at a larger stage.