What was the Charter Act 1833?
The Charter Act 1833, also known as the East India Company Act 1833, was an Act of the British Parliament in 1833 that aimed to further reform and regulate the administration of the British East India Company. It was again called Charter Act 1833 because the British government extended the Company’s rule by another 20 years. The Charter Act 1833 was later retitled as St. Helena Act 1833 because by this act St.Helena Island was transferred from the control of the East India Company to the Crown. It was introduced during the term of Lord William Bentick who was also the first Governor General of India.
The Charter Act 1833 has a special significance for British rule in India as by this time the British had successfully established their hegemony over the entire country except the Sikh Empire under Maharaja Ranjit Singh in the north of Satluj river. The great Maratha empire was already subjugated after the 3rd Anglo-Maratha war. As far as the Mughals are concerned, they were already finished and confined to Delhi.
The Charter Act 1833, was an extension of the Charter Act 1813 which itself was a part of the process of clipping the wings of East India Company’s political control over Indian territories. This entire process started with the enactment of the Regulating Act 1773. The Pitt’s India Act 1884 had already declared the East India Company’s territories in India as ‘British Possessions’ in India..
Provisions of Charter Act 1833
- The act extended the charter of the East India Company for another 20 years even though its commercial mandate was ended.
- The extended charter for another 20 years meant that the East India Company could still raise armies, wage wars, conquer territories and rule the conquered territories.
- Provisions of this act ended the company’s remaining commercial and trading functions and transferred them to the British government. This effectively ended the company’s role in trade and commerce and marked the beginning of direct British rule in India. The East India Company remained an administrative body.
- The act also took away the East India Company’s monopoly in trade with China.
- The Governor General of Bengal was redesignated as Governor General of India. Thus Lord William Bentick who was serving as Governor General of Bengal became the Governor General of India.
- The Governor-General of India was to be assisted by a Council of India, who were to be appointed by the British government and were to be responsible for the administration of India. The new council would be Known as ‘India Council’.
- The India Council had 4 members.
- After the Charter Act 1833, the government run by the Governor General was for the first time referred to as ‘Government of India’.
- The office of ‘Governor General in Council’ was made all powerful by giving him legislative powers to make laws which would be enforced as law of the land for all the territories under British India.
- Thus by implication the legislative powers of the governors of Bombay and Madras no longer existed.
- The act abolished the system of monopoly and free trade was established between India and the British colonies.
- The act also provided for the establishment of a college in Fort William, Calcutta, for the education of British civil servants in India.
- The act also attempted to create a recruitment procedure for officials in India by an open competition but was vetoed by the Court of Directors as they wanted to keep the privilege of appointing officials in India with themselves.
- The act also categorically disallowed the barring of appointment of native Indians on the basis of religion.
- Charter Act 1833 also created the ‘Indian Law Commission’ with Lord Macaulay as its chairman.
- All laws passed in India were to be referred to the British Parliament and these laws would have the status of Acts.
- The Law Commission’s main job was to codify Indian Laws.
- The Bengal Presidency was split into ‘Agra and Fort William’. But the provision never came into effect.
- It was the Charter Act 1833 that called for the recruitment of Indians in administration. It also stressed that the recruitment should be based on merit rather than birth, race, religion or region.
- With this act, the British government abolished slavery not only in India but also in all the territories under its control.
- The act also sought to regulate Christian institutions in India.
- Since there was a growing Christian British population in India, the act provided for the appointment of 3 Bishops.
Significance of Charter Act 1833
- A Law Commission was established which codified Indian Laws, the provisions of which are still in use.
- It ended the commercial activities of the company along with its monopoly over Chinese trade.
- It elevated the post of Governor General of Bengal to Governor General of India. With this a new type of administration ushered in.
- There was a separation of legislative and executive functions of the Governor General in Council.
- After the act a new system of revenue collection known as the Ryotwari System was introduced in western and South India, which aimed to increase the efficiency of land revenue collection. This new land revenue system was a modification over the previous systems namely – The Permanent Settlement and the Mahalwari System.
- Indians were now allowed in administration.
On the whole the Charter Act of 1833 was a significant step in the process of the British government’s consolidation of control over India. The act marked the end of the East India Company’s rule in India as its commercial powers and monopoly of trade with China came to an end. It established a new system of governance in India, known as the “British Raj“, in which the British government was given complete control over the administration of India, and it began the process of direct British rule in India, though officially the entire Indian administration went under the Crown in 1858. This act also abolished the East India Company’s commercial and trading functions and established free trade between India and the British colonies, which was a significant step towards the economic development of India.
PYQs on Charter Act 1833
Question: Consider the following about the Charter Act of 1813.
- It completely ended the company’s trade monopoly in India.
- It empowered the local governments to tax people subject to the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court.
Which of the following is/are correct.
(a) 1 only
(b) 2 only
Question: Which of the following is/are correct with respect to the Charter Act of 1813.
- Permission was granted for Christian missionaries to enter India and promote their religion.
- The Charter Act of 1813 laid the foundation for modern Indian education.
- For the first time, the Company’s constitutional position was defined, and the crown’s control over the British East India Company was established.
Select the correct option
(a) 1 only
(b) 1 and 2 only
(c) 2 and 3 only
(d) All of the above
What was the purpose of the Charter Act of 1813?
The purpose of this act was to further consolidate the British government’s authority on Indian territories under East India Company’s control. It had some positive implications for Indians as well as funds were allocated for the development of Indian literature and science.
What were the main features of the Charter Act of 1813?
The main features of the act were related to religion, science, literature and administration. For more details kindly read the complete article.