Pitt’s India Act, 1784 – UPSC GS1

  • British Government enacted the Regulating Act in 1773 to control the activities of the Company. The Act set up a system whereby it supervised (regulated) the work of the Company but did not take power for itself. The Act had proven to be a failure within a few years and the British government decided to take a more active role in the affairs of the Company.
  • The East India Company Act 1784, also known as Pitt’s India Act, was an Act of the Parliament of Great Britain intended to address the shortcomings of the Regulating Act of 1773 by bringing the East India Company’s rule in India under the control of the British Government.
Main Provisions:
  • The Pitts India Act differentiated the political functions from the commercial activities of East India Company.
  •  A Board of Control (Board of Commissioners) consisting of six members was created. The six members viz. the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Secretary of State, and four Privy Councilors, nominated by the King were the members of this Board of Control.
  • The Secretary of the State was entitled as the President of the Board of Control. This Board of control was empowered to control all matters of civil or military government or revenues.
  • The board was given full access to the company’s records. It had the powers to send Governors to India and full authority to alter them.
  • The Court of Directors was retained without any alteration in its composition.
  • The Act also introduced significant changes in the Indian administration. The Governor General’s council was now reduced to 3 members, one of whom was to be the commander-in-chief of the King’s army in India. The Governor-general, a crown appointee, was authorised to veto the majority decisions.
  • The Governors of Presidencies of Bombay and Madras were deprived of their independent powers and Calcutta was given greater powers in matters of war, revenue, and diplomacy, thus Calcutta becoming in effect, the capital of Company possessions in India.
  • In political matters, the company which was till now working as somewhat sovereign was made directly subordinate to the British government.
  • The Pitts India Act 1734 actually provided for a joint government of the company and British crown in India. So now, the fate of India People would  be decided by the company and the British Government (indirectly).
  • The Company was to be represented by the Court of Directors and the Crown was represented by the Board of Control.
  • The Board of control had no independent executive power. It had no patronage. Its power was veiled. It had access to all the Company’s papers and its approval was necessary for all dispatches that were not purely commercial, and in case of emergency the Board could send its own draft to the Secret Committee of the Directors to be signed and sent out in its name.
  • The Governor General Council was now under indirect control of the British Government through the Board of Control.
  •  This Act removed many faults of Regulating Act 1773.  It ended an inappropriate division of authority in India by making the Governor-General supreme over the subordinate governments of Bombay and Madras.
  • By reducing Governor General Council’s members to three, it removed one of the shortcoming of Regulating Act 1773, as now Governor General found easier to get majority in any decision and in case of tie, he had final say.
    It divided the responsibility between the Board of Control, Court of Directors and the Governor General in Council but again , no boundaries could be fixed as they matter was subjective and not objective.
  • The Board of control was alleged for nepotism.
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