Indian Council Act 1861 UPSC History Notes PDF Download

By K Balaji|Updated : June 1st, 2022

Indian Council Act 1861 was the act passed by the Parliament of the United Kingdom which changed India's executive council to a cabinet. This cabinet ran on the portfolio system. Lord Canning, the Viceroy of India, first introduced the concept of a portfolio system.

For reading about this important topic from UPSC Prelims and Mains perspectives, Indian Council Act 1861 UPSC notes are available in pdf. Indian Council Act 1861 UPSC is covered in both History and Polity. The Indian Council Act 1861 laid down the composition of the Governor General’s council for legislative and executive purposes.

Table of Content

What is the Indian Council Act 1861?

The Indian Council Act 1861 was introduced by the British Parliament to meet the necessity of the cooperation of Indians in the administration of the country. With the advent of this act, the powers of government were restored and, the portfolio of the Council of Viceroy was incorporated.

  • The concept of decentralization of powers was introduced in the Indian Council Act of 1861.
  • The Indian Council's Act 1861 was enacted by the Parliament of the United Kingdom, which transformed India's Executive Council into a cabinet that runs on the portfolio system.
  • The cabinet consisted of six ordinary members who took charge of different separate departments like home revenue, law, finance, and public works in the Calcutta government.
  • Under the charter act of 1833, the legislative powers were taken back by the British Parliament. With the advent of the Indian Council Act of 1861, all the powers were restored. Hence, this act is an essential landmark for the constitutional reputation of India.
  • The Indian Council Act of 1861 allowed the Indians to participate in the law-making process. Regarding this provision, the Viceroy nominated Sir Dinkar Rao Maharaj of Banaras and Patiala.
  • Under the Indian Council Act of 1861, the Viceroy was provided with the power to issue ordinances during an emergency without asking for the concordance of the Legislative Council.
  • The life of these ordinances was decided to be 6 months.

History of Indian Council Act 1861

  • The revolt of 1857 shook the British Empire. It forced them to seek a corporation with Indians in the administration.
  • After exercising complete control of the territory of India, the British Parliament decided to overhaul the administrative and legislative structures. Hence, 3 acts were passed: 1861, 1892, and 1909.
  • The Indian Council act 1861 is a very important benchmark in the constitution and history of India.

Features of Indian Council Act 1861

Go through the provisions of Indian Council Act 1861 for a better understanding.

  • The Indian Council Act of 1861 was significant. It created a representative institution by involving Indians in the legislative process.
  • Lord Canning nominated some Indians as non-official members as a part of his expanded Council. Later on, he nominated three Indians to his Legislative Council: the Raja of Banaras, Patiala, and Sir Dinkar Rao.
  • The Indian Council Act of 1861 initiated the process of decentralization of powers to the Bombay and Madras presidencies.
  • The Indian Council Act of 1861 also had provisions for establishing a new legislative council in Bengal, the North-Western Provinces, and Punjab in the years 1862, 1886, and 1897, respectively.
  • The Viceroy was empowered to make the rules and orders for the convenient business transactions of the Council.
  • Lord Canning introduced a portfolio system in the government where members of the Council were made in charge of one or more departments of the government. The Viceroy was authorized to issue any order on behalf of the Council and the departments.

Reasons for the Indian Council Act 1861

  • After the war of independence in 1857, the British officials in Parliament realized the difficulty of establishing a government in India without their participation.
  • The act of 1833 centralized the legislation; it had only one representative in each of the four provinces. The charter act of 1833 centralized the legislation. The central government back then had the power to legislate for the entire country.
  • This work of the legislative council, established by the charter act of 1853, left much to be desired. The company claimed all the functions and privileges for itself.
  • Also, many times, the company tried to act as if it had complete autonomy and an independent legislature. With this mindset, they often break off the chain of supply of goods to England.
  • To stop this unbridled dictatorship of the company in India, the British parliament called for a meeting of the authorities in England. After a comprehensive discussion with the governments of India and Britain, the Indian Council Act was passed and the company was called off.

Merits of the Indian Council Act, 1861

  • The Indian Council's Act of 1861 was a drastic change in the history of the Indian Constitution.
  • The Indian Council's act changed the structure of the Governor General's Council for executive and legislative purposes.
  • Indians were allowed to present their viewpoint and participate actively in the administrative processes.

Indian Councils Act, 1861 UPSC Notes PDF

The Indian Council's Act of 1861 is an important event in the UPSC Syllabus of Indian Polity. You can read more about the Indian Council's Act 1861, in the NCERT books for UPSC, or the UPSC Books. The powers of the company were snatched and a full-fledged government was re-established. It is an important topic from the perspective of the UPSC Prelims and UPSC Mains.

Aspirants preparing to appear for the UPSC Exam this year can get complete information on Indian Council Act 1861. Once you complete the UPSC Syllabus from the books, the candidates should solve the UPSC Previous Year’s Question Papers and Study Material.

Download Indian Council Act 1861 UPSC Notes PDF

Indian Council Act 1861 UPSC Question

UPSC Prelims 2002 Q.1 Which one of the following acts of British India strengthened the Viceroy's authority over his executive Council by substituting the portfolio or department system for corporate functioning?

  1. India Council Act 1861
  2. Government of India Act 1858
  3. Indian Council Act 1892
  4. Indian Council Act 1909

Correct Answer is:- Option A

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FAQs on Indian Council Act 1861 UPSC

  • Members of the executive councils of a specific department are given special status or titles, particularly in revenue, religion, foreign affairs, military, and finance. The portfolios are extremely similar to the present-day portfolios in the cabinets.

  • The portfolio system was introduced by Lord Canning, the first viceroy of India, after the enactment of the Indian Council Act.

  • The main purpose of making the Indian Council Act 1861 was to take away the existing powers of the East India Company and establish a proper administration system in the country with legislation.

  • Ordinances were a type of law that was made by the viceroy in any emergency situation. The viceroy was not bound to ask for the prior approval of the executive councils or the legislative councils. These ordinances were valid up to 6 months of enactment.

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