Indian Polity Lesson 1 – Historical Background of Indian Constitution Part I, indian polity upsc ssc

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“Historical Background of Indian Constitution”.

We will be looking at how East India Company and British slowly built the framework of Indian Polity to enable Indian Administrators tweaked and brought their version after independence.

Before 1947, India was divided into two main entities – The British India which consisted of 11 provinces and the Princely states ruled by Indian princes under subsidiary alliance policy. The two entities merged together to form the Indian Union, but many of the legacy systems in British India is followed even now. The historical underpinnings and evolution of the India Constitution can be traced to many regulations and acts passed before Indian Independence.

Indian System of Administration

Indian democracy is a Parliamentary form of democracy where the executive is responsible to the Parliament. The Parliament has two houses – Lok sabha and Rajya sabha. Also, the type of governance is Federal, ie there is separate executive and legislature at Center and States. We also have self-governance at local government levels. All these systems owe their legacy to the British administration. Let us see the historical background of Indian Constitution and its development through years.

Going forward we will be seeing too many Acts and their enactment years.

Lets look at the very brief of the British India context.

■  Around 1600 AD Britishers were came to India for Trade. And for large part,  they were from East India company which has exclusive access to India for Trade from Britain.

■ The East India Company was founded in the year 1600 for persuading the trade with South Asia and South East Asia.

■  But, the East India Company traded mainly in the Indian subcontinent and China.

■  In the year 1765 the East India Company obtained Rights over revenue and civil justice of Bengal, Bihar and Orissa which is otherwise known as Diwani.

■  In the year 1858 after the Sepoy mutiny, British crown took direct responsibility for the governance of India.

■  This rule continued till India got Independence in 1947.

We will now be exploring the what happened between 1600 and 1947 one by one.

THE COMPANY RULE (1773-1858):   AND 

These two acts laid the foundation for centrally administered India, and for the first time, political and administrative functions of the East India company were recognized.

This is regarded as the first step taken by British Government to control and regulate the activities of East India Company in India.


■  The Governor of Bengal was designated as the Governor-General of Bengal and the Executive council of the 4 members were created to assist the Governor-General.

■  The first Governor-General of Bengal was Lord Warren Hastings.

■  Governors of Bombay and Madras presidencies subordinate to the Governor-General of Bengal.

■  The act enabled establishment of Supreme Court at Calcutta in the year 1774.

■  The Supreme Court comprised of a Chief Justice and 3 other judges.

■  This act prohibited the servants of the company from engaging in any private trade or accepting presentations (gifts) or bribes from the native Indians.

■  The 1773 act strengthened the control of British government over the company by requiring the court the Directors to report on its revenue, civil and military affairs in India.

■  The 1781 act of Settlement – passed by the British parliament to rectify the defects of 1773 Act.


■  The Pitts India act distinguished between commercial and political functions of the company.

■  The Court of Directors entrusted with the responsibility to manage commercial affairs of the company.

■  The Board of control was entrusted with the responsibility of political affairs.

■  Thus the Pitts India act established the dual (double) government.

■  The company territories in India were for the first time called British possessions in India.

With this we have come to the end of this session and in next session we will be seeing about Charter Act and Govt of India Act which started the crown rule in India.


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