INDIRECT control of the British Government – Pitts India Act 1784

The flaws in the working of the Regulating Act of 1773 were later taken on by William Pitts, the Prime Minister of Great Britain. The bill was introduced in January 1784, but the bill was not passed as parliament subsequently got dissolved. In the subsequent election, William Pitt obtained a majority and got the bill passed in August 1784, which was known to be Pitt’s India Act 1784.

  • This act established a Board of 6 Commissioners in England for the affairs of India and it was known as Board of Control.
  • This board of control comprised of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Secretary of state and 4 privy Councilors. This Board of control was empowered to control all matters of civil or military government or revenues.
  • The board was given full access to the company’s records. It had the powers to send Governors to India and full authority to alter them.
  • The Governor General’s council was now reduced to 3 members, one of whom was to be the commander-in-chief of the King’s army in India.
  • The governor General was given the right of casting vote, in case the members present in a meeting of the council shall any time be equally divided in opinion.
  • In short, the Pitt’s India Act brought the Governor General and his council which was now reduced to 3 members under the INDIRECT control of the British Government and other minor Presidencies under the control of Governor General & Council.
  • This act separated the commercial and political activities of the company. The act now actually provided for a joint government of the company and British crown. The Company was to be represented by the Directors and the Crown was represented by the Board of Control. The Governors of Presidencies of Bombay and Madras were deprived of their independent powers and Calcutta was given greater powers in matters of war, revenue, and diplomacy, thus becoming in effect, the capital of Company possessions in India.
  • A secret committee of the 3 directors was to transmit the orders of the Board to India. This Secret Committee was to work as a link between the Board of control and the Court of Directors.
  • All civilians and military officers were ordered to provide the Court of Directors a full inventory of their property in India and in Britain within two months of their joining their posts. Severe punishment was provisioned for corrupt officials.

    Parliament directly appointed Lord Charles Cornwallis to implement the Act. Immediately after his joining as Governor General in 1786, Cornwallis embarked upon the responsibility of reform works reposed on him by parliament. In 1793 he completed his mission. He introduced permanent settlement , announced a judicial code, established administrative and police systems and then left for home in the same year.

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