Government of India Act 1858: History, Key Aspects, Defects, Features

By K Balaji|Updated : June 10th, 2022

The Government of India Act 1858 was passed on August 2nd, 1858 by the United Kingdom. It is also known as the Act for the Good Government of India and it ended the Dual government scheme initiated due to Pitt’s India Act. In this act, the British East India Company was liquidated, and its powers were transferred to the British crown. Here, the British Crown means the Queen of Britain.

The Government of India Act 1858 was passed by the British Parliament that outraged the powers of the British East India Company and transferred them to the British crown. With the advent of the Government of India Act 1858, the rule of the company over the British territories of India came to an end. The Government of India Act 1858 UPSC Notes allows you to prepare the topic in a comprehensive manner for the upcoming IAS Exam.

Table of Content

Government of India Act 1858: Overview

Go through the Government of India Act 1858 for easy quick revision.

Government of India Act 1858 [Modern History of India UPSC Notes]

Introduced by

The British Parliament

Royal Assent for Government of India Act 1858

2nd August 1858

Government of India Act 1858 Governor-General

Lord Cannings

Government of India Act 1858 Commencement

1st November 1858

Other names for Government of India Act 1858

Act for the Good Government of India

Importance of the Government of India Act 1858

  • The act ended the controversial ‘Doctrine of Lapse’.
  • The designation of Governor-General of India was changed to Viceroy of India.
  • Government of India Act 1858 ended the double government rule By abolishing the Board of Control and Court of Directors.
  • The Government of India Act introduced the Secretary of State for India who was directly responsible and accountable to the British Parliament.

Territories Affected

Territories under British possession in India

History of Government of India Act 1858

Let’s have a look at the history of the Government of India Act of 1858 to find the roots of its initiation.

  • After the mutiny of 1857 (the soldier’s revolt of 1857, regarding the issue of cartridges made of animal fat) was suppressed, it was the time for the administrators sitting back in Britain to analyze the causes, effects, and solutions to this mutiny.
  • The administration came up with the solution that the company, which was originally formed for trading purposes, should not be allowed to control the British colony, that is, India. Hence, the political powers of the company were ended and a new era of crown rule began with the advent of the Government of India Act of 1858.
  • On August 2, 1858, the British Parliament passed the Government of India Act, and the governor-general of India, who was the top administrator of the East India Company in India, became known as the Viceroy of India under Crown rule. Lord Canning was the first Viceroy of India.
  • A new post of the Secretary of State for India was designated in British Parliament and was responsible and accountable for all the matters related to British India, in British Parliament.

Government of India Act 1858: Key Aspects

The Government of India Act 1858 came into action after the First War of Independence in 1857. This act was also called the Act of the Good Government of India. However, it was abolished and the powers were directly transferred to the British crown. That is why it is also called the Crown Rule.

  • The Government of India Act 1858 signifies the sovereignty taken by the British Crown from the East India Company.
  • This was the first act that enacted the statute of direct governance of the British government in India.
  • With the passage of the Government of India Act, the British crown gained full control of India's borders without any direct participation in the country's administration.
  • The council, established to rule the country under the Government of India Act consisted of people from England, who were the nominees of the Crown, as well as some of the representatives from the Directors of the East India Company.
  • As a result, the entire bureaucracy was made up of British officials who were unconcerned about Indians' opinions.
  • However, this council of members was neither representative nor deliberative in any sense. It had no powers to criticize the acts or conduct of the authorities that constitute the British crown.
  • The basic objective of the Act was to expand the functions of the government of India and to give further opportunities to the nonofficial and native elements in Indian society, to take part in the work of the government.

Government of India Act 1858: Features

This Act provided that India henceforth was to be governed by the British Kingdom. The important features of the Act were:

  • The designation of Governor-General of India was changed to Viceroy of India. The Viceroy of India was made the direct representative of the British Crown to India.
  • Government of India Act 1858 ended the double government rule By abolishing the Board of Control and Court of Directors.
  • Apart from creating the deposition of the Viceroy of India. The Government of India Act also introduced a new office known as the Secretary of State for India which was directly responsible and accountable to the British Parliament.
  • The Government of India Act established the Council of 15 members who assisted the secretary of state for India This Council acted as an advisory body to him.
  • The secretary of state was made chairman of the Council.

Defects of Government of India Act 1858

The major defect of the Government of India Act 1858 was that the model for governance was similar to that of the company rule. It displayed complete imperialism and restricted the people’s representation.

The newly designated post of Secretary of the State for India was given absolute powers regarding the administration of India. The secretary of state was only answerable to the British Parliament but had no accountability towards Indian Citizens.

Government of India Act 1858 UPSC

The Government of India Act 1858 is a part of Modern Indian History and Indian Polity as well. You can read more about the Government of India Act 1858, in the NCERT Books for UPSC, or the UPSC History Books. One can also refer to the Indian History Notes for UPSC to cover this topic. Because this act extended the British crown's rule over India, it became crucial in terms of the UPSC Prelims and Mains exams.

The aspirants, preparing for the UPSC Mains can get the Indian History Notes for UPSC. Before you start preparations, you should have a detailed overview of the UPSC Mains Syllabus.

Government of India Act 1858 UPSC Questions

Q.1 Consider the following statements-

  1. The Charter Act, 1853 abolished the East India Company’s monopoly on Indian Trade.
  2. Under the Government of India Act, 1858, the British Parliament abolished the rule of the East India Company and undertook the responsibility of ruling India directly. Which of the following statement[s] given above is/are correct?
  1. One Only
  2. Two Only
  3. Both 1&2
  4. Neither 1 nor 2

Ans:- Option 2

Q.2 What was/were the object/objects of Queen Victoria’s Proclamation(1858)?

  1. To disclaim any intention to annex the Indian states
  2. To place the Indian administration under the British crown
  3. To regulate East India Company’s trade with India

Select the correct answer, using the codes given below-

  1. One and Two Only
  2. Two Only
  3. One and Three Only
  4. One, Two, and Three

Ans:- Option 3

Government of India Act 1858 UPSC Notes PDF

The Government of India Act 1858 notes are available in PDF form to have a quick revision at the last moment before the UPSC Exam. Do incorporate the topic in your UPSC Preparation Strategy and practice the UPSC Previous Year Questions to understand the UPSC Exam Pattern better.

Download Government of India Act 1858 UPSC Notes PDF

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FAQs on Government of India Act 1858

  • The Government of India Act 1858 was known as the Crown rule because in this act the British Parliament snatched the power of rule from the hands of the East India Company and transferred it directly to the Crown of Britain.

  • The East India Company had the power to rule the Indians however they were misusing it. They were solely focused on trading and were irresponsible to the people of the nation. This led to the revolt of 1857 and the ‘sepoy mutiny’, after which the Crown rule had to take away the powers and enact the Government of India at 1858

  • The Government of India Act was formerly (before enactment) called an act for the better Governance of India. It was introduced by Edward Stanley who was the 15th Earl of Derby.

  • The sepoy mutiny happened in 1857 because the Rebel sepoys refused to use the new cartridges as they believed they were made from a mixture of cows and pigs lard which eventually was hurtful to the sentiments of Hindus and Muslims.

  • The Proclamation of 1858 or better known as the Queen Victoria’s Proclamation declared the future policy of the British Rule in India. In November 1858, a grand Darbar was held at Allahabad where Lord Canning sent forth the royal proclamation which announced that the Queen had assumed the Government of India.

  • The major changes introduced with the Act of 1858 were:

    • Transfer of powers from the East India Company to the Crown.
    • A member of the British Parliament was made Secretary of State of India exercise powers on behalf of the Crown and was responsible to the British Parliament.
    • Governor-General for India was provided with an Executive Council
  • To download the Government of India Act 1858 UPSC Notes PDF, Click here.

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