Pitt’s India Act of 1784
Pitt’s India Act 1784 or the East India Company Act 1784 was passed in the British Parliament to rectify the defects of the Regulating Act 1773. It resulted in dual control or joint government in India by Crown in Great Britain and the British East India Company, with crown having ultimate authority. With this act, East India Company’s political functions were differentiated from its commercial activities for the first time. The relationship between company and crown established by this act kept changing with time until the Government of India Act 1858 provided for liquidation of the British East India Company.
Key Provisions of the Pitts India Act
The formal title of the Pitt’s India Act was : “An Act for the better Regulation and Management of the Affairs of the East India Company and of the British Possessions in India, and for establishing a Court of Judicature for the more speedy and effectual Trial of Persons accused of Offences committed in the East Indies”.
Board of Control
In political matters, the company was till now working as somewhat sovereign. The Pitts India act made the company directly subordinate to the British government. For the purpose of Joint Government, a Board of Commissioners for the Affairs of India called Board of Control was created. This board was made of six people viz. the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Secretary of State, and four Privy Councillors nominated by the King. The Secretary of the State was entitled as the President of the Board of Control. 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.
Thus, in the dual control, the Company was to be represented by the Court of Directors and the Crown was represented by the Board of Control.
Alternation in Governor General-in Council
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. This process of reducing number of members from 4 to 3 was to strengthen the position of the Governor General because now, he was able to get any resolution passed even with the help of one member in his side. 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. The Governor General Council was now under indirect control of the British Government through the Board of Control.
Greater Powers to Presidency of Calcutta
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 Calcutta becoming in effect, the capital of Company possessions in India.
There was also a secret committee of the 3 directors, which had 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.
Disclosing of Property
All civil and military officers of the East India Company 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.
Failure & Significance of Pitts India Act 1784: Analysis
The Pitt’s India Act was deemed a failure. This was because; very soon it became apparent that the boundaries between government control and the company’s powers were nebulous and highly subjective. The British Government felt obliged to respond to humanitarian calls for better treatment of local peoples in British-occupied territories. The Board of control was alleged for nepotism. The act was a naive one, it divided the responsibility between the Board of Control, Court of Directors and the Governor General in Council but again without fixing the clear cut boundaries. The powers fixed were subjective and not objective.
Significance of the Act
The Act was significant for two reasons. Firstly, the company’s territories in India were for the first time called the ‘British possession in India’ and secondly, British Government was given the supreme control over Company’s affairs and its administration in India.