The Indian Council’s Act, 1892

  • The Indian Councils Act 1892 was an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom that authorized an increase in the size of the various legislative councils in British India. Indian Councils Act 1892 was the beginning of the parliamentary System in India.
  • Before this act was passed, the Indian National Congress had adopted some resolutions in its sessions in 1885 and 1889 and put its demand. One of the demand was: Reforms of the legislative council and adoption of the principle of election in place of nomination.This demand reflected the dissatisfaction of the Indian National Congress over the existing system of governance. The Indian leaders wanted admission of a considerable number of the elected members. They also wanted the creation of similar councils of North western Province and Oudh and also for Punjab
  • The Indian leaders 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 election.
  • Following provisions were made in the Act:
  1. The Indian Councils Act 1892 gave the members right to ask questions on Budget or matters of public Interest after giving six days’ notice.But no right to ask supplementary questions.The act was 1892 can be said to be a First step towards the beginning of the parliamentary system in India, where the members are authorized to ask questions.At least, they were enabled to indulge in a criticism of the Financial Policy of the Government.
  2. Additional members could be indirectly elected to the Legislative Council. For the very first time, an element of election was sought to be introduced for the first time. The universities, district board, municipalities, zamindars and chambers of commerce were empowered to recommend members to provincial councils. Thus was introduced the principle of representation.
  3. India was divided into provinces for administrative convenience. Bengal, Bombay and Madras were presidencies which had more powers than the provinces.
  4. The Indian Councils act 1892 increased the number of the additional(non-official) members in councils to between 10 and 16. The Council now had 6 officials, 5 nominated non-officials, 4 nominated by the provincial legislative councils of Bengal Presidency, Bombay Presidency, Madras Presidency and North-Western Provinces and 1 nominated by the chamber of commerce in Calcutta. The law member was made a permanent member. In case of Bombay and Madras 8-20 and In case of the Bengal 20 and In case of North Western province and Oudh 15. In 1892, the council consisted of 24 members, only five being where Indians
  5. The British reorganized the Indian Army but it was dominated by the European branch of the army. In addition the maximum age for entry into the Civil Services was gradually reduced from 23 to 19. The princely states were rewarded for their supportive role for the British in 1857 revolt. Their right to adopt heirs could be respected and integrity of their territories granted against future annexation.
  • Thus British made several changes with the objective of gradually involving Indians in the British administrative structure with the object of preventing any major upsurge from the nationalist front by creating a permanent group of loyalists.
  • Contrary to the Congress faith in the policy of petition, prayer and protest, the Indian Councils Act did not satisfy the public demand. The congress way of demand 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…”

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