The Charter Act of 1793

The Charter Act of 1793

  • The East India Company Act 1793, or Charter Act of 1793, was an Act of the Parliament of Great Britain which renewed the charter issued to the British East India Company (EIC) for twenty years, giving it possession of all territories in India during that period and continued the Company’s rule in India.
  • In contrast with legislation concerning British India proposed in the preceding two decades, the 1793 Act “passed with minimal trouble”.
  • The Act made only fairly minimal changes to either the system of government in India or British oversight of the Company’s activities.
  • Company’s trade monopoly was continued for a further 20 years. The Company’s charter was next renewed by the Charter Act of 1813.

Provisions of the Act:

  • The Act recognized the Company’s political functions and clearly established that the” acquisition of sovereignty by the subjects of the Crown is on behalf of the Crown and not in its own right.”
  • The company was allowed to increase its dividend to 10%.
  • A provision in the Charter act of 1793 was made that the company, after paying the necessary expenses, interest, dividend, salaries, etc. from the Indian Revenues will pay 5 Lakh British pounds annually out of the surplus revenue to the British Government.
  • Indian administration:
    • The Governor-General was granted extensive powers over the subordinate presidencies.
      • Hence the Governors of Bombay and Madras were brought more decisively under his control.
    • Governor General was empowered to disregard the majority in the Council in special circumstances. Thus more powers were entrusted in him.
      • The Governor General and respective governors of the other presidencies could now override the respective councils.
      • Hence the power which has been specifically given to Cornwallis on his appointment to override his Council was extended to all future Governors-General and Governors.
    • The commander in chief was not now the member of Governor General’s council, unless he was specially appointed to be a member by the Court of Directors.
    • A regular code of all regulations that could be enacted for the internal government of the British territories in Bengal was framed.
      • The regulation applied to all rights, person and property of the Indian people and it bound the courts to regulate their decisions by the rules and directives contained therein.
      • All laws were to be printed with translations in Indian languages, so that people could know of their rights, privileges and immunities.
      • The act thus introduced in India the concept of a civil law, enacted by a secular human agency and applied universally.
    • The Act reorganized the courts and redefined their jurisdictions.
      • The revenue administration was divorced from the judiciary functions and this led to disappearing of the Maal Adalats.
  • Home Government:
    • Regarding Home Government, the first-named Commissioner of the Board of Control was to be its President. The two junior members need no longer be members of the Privy Council.
    • Salaries for the staff and paid members of the Board of Control were also now charged to the Company.
      • Hence all the members were in future to be paid salaries not out of the State Exchequer but out of Indian revenues. This practice continued up to 1919.
    • Royal approval was mandated for the appointment of the Governor-General, the governors, and the Commander-in-Chief.
  • Senior officials were forbidden from leaving India without permission.
    • If a high official departed from India without permission, it was to be treated as resignation.
  • The EIC was empowered to grant licences to both individuals and Company employees to trade in India (known as the privilege or “country” trade), which paved the way for shipments of opium to China.
  • William Wilberforce had wanted to include two more clauses into the act:
      • One would declare that the purpose of British rule in India would be to work towards the moral and spiritual uplift of the Indians and
      • would allow entry of appropriate persons, such as teachers and missionaries, into India to achieve that imperial goal.
    • Both the clauses were, however, dropped, but only till the next renewal of the charter.

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