History Optional Paper-2 Solution – 2011: Q.2 (a)

Q.2 (a) “The Charter Act of 1833 rung down the curtain on the company’s trade and introduced a new concept of government in India.” Substantiate.


The Charter Act of 1833 was passed by the British Parliament when the Charter Act of 1813 ran out in 1833. It extended the royal Charter granted to  the East India Company for 20 more years. This Act is considered as a landmark in the constitutional development in India as it pit end to the Company’s trade and introduced a new concept of government.

The Charter Act of 1833 rung down the curtain on the company’s trade

The Charter ended the Commercial activities of East India company and it became a purely administrative body and no longer a commercial body.  Company was to rule over India in the name of British crown as the Act provided that the company’s territories in India were held by it ‘in trust for His Majesty’.

The Company lost its monopoly on trade with China and trade with tea. With this, monopolies in trade were eliminated and other British Companies were allowed to trade freely with India in all commodities along with other Far East countries.

The Charter Act of 1833 introduced a new concept of government in India

1. Centralization of government

The Centralisation of government occured in financial, legislative and administrative matters.

The Governor General of Bengal was made the Governor General of India with all the civil and military powers. Governor Generals of Madras and Bombay presidencies were made subordinate to him and they were limited in or deprived of their legislative power, financial power, and comtrol over military and civil affairs.

Thus, the act created, for the first time, a Government of India having authority over the entire territorial area possessed by the British in India.

2. Separation of power

For the first time executive and legislative function of the Governor General Council were separated. Extra six members were added to the council for legislative purpose. This is to function as mini-parliament for law making. The laws made under the previous acts were called as Regulations while laws made under this act were called as Acts.

3. Inclusion of law member in he council and Codification of Law

A law member, Lord Mcaulay, was included in Governor-General’s council as fourth member. The 4th member was not entitled to act as a member of the council except for legislative purposes.

Law commission was established under Macaulay to codify all Indian laws which later culminated into Indian Penal Code.

4. Non discrimination provision and Reform in Civil Services

Hence, the Act of 1833 attempted to introduce a system of open competition for selection of civil servants, and stated that the Indians should not be debarred from holding any place, office and employment under the company by reason of religion, place of birth, descent, colour or any of them. However, this provision was negated after opposition from the Court of Directors.

5. Steps towards the abolition of Slavery

The Act of 1833 enjoined the Government of India to take measures for amelioration of the conditions of slaves and ultimate abolition of slavery in India. Slavery was finally abolished in 1843.

6. Legalisation of the British Colonisation

The Act of 1833 legalized the British colonization of India and the territorial possessions of the company were transferred to Government of India. All restrictions on European immigration into India and acquisition by them of land and property in India were removed.

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