Pitt’s India Act 1784: History, Features, Significance, Defects

By K Balaji|Updated : October 12th, 2022

Pitt’s India Act 1784 is also recognized as the East India Company Act 1784. This act was introduced to the flaws of the Regulating Act of 1773 and also to increase the East India Company's accountability to the British Parliament. Pitt's India Act established a system where the British government and the British East India Company shared dual control of India. These transformations lasted until 1858.

The article below consists of a brief description of the provisions, features, importance, and impact of Pitt’s India Act 1784, citing its importance in the context of UPSC. Get a complete overview of Pitt’s Act of 1784 for the upcoming UPSC Prelims and Mains exam to prepare for this topic well.

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Pitt’s India Act 1784

The Pitt’s India Act of 1784 was named after the then Prime Minister of Britain, William Pitt, because the bill was introduced by the Prime Minister himself. This bill is quite significant as it begins the process of the British government taking control over the territories occupied by the East India Company in India.

Pitt's India Act 1784 UPSC PDF

The Pitt's India act 1784 was passed almost 11 years later than that of the Regulating Act of 1773. During this period the East India Company occupied a huge part of India and was making a huge amount of profits by exploiting Indian resources. This is the time when the British government felt the need to take control of the Indian subcontinent and restrict the company’s monopoly over the trade. This became the prime reason for the introduction of Pitt’s India Act 1784.

History of Pitt’s India Act 1784

Go through the developments that lead to the formation of the Pitt’s India Act 1784:

  • The British were aware of the wealth of the Indian sub-continent, and they had already witnessed the profits made by the East India Company. Therefore the British parliament decided to take control of the East India Company slowly and steadily with an ambition to control the Indian territories.
  • The loopholes of the Regulating Act of 1773 have caused certain administrative failures, including corruption in the company, lack of accountability and responsibility, mismanagement in the company, clash of power, etc. Hence the British parliament introduced Pitt’s Act 1784, to upgrade the Regulating act of 1773 and remove the errors of the act.
  • The occurrence of the First Anglo-Maratha war (1775-1782) was also one of the reasons that forced the British parliament to rethink the company’s administrative and political powers. Pitt’s India Act came into existence so that the company could realize the supremacy of the British Parliament.

Features of the Pitt’s India Act

The salient features of Pitt’s India Act of 1784 are as follows-

  • The most significant feature of this act was that it established the supremacy of the British parliament over the East India Company. The same was achieved by-
    • Differentiating the political and trading powers of the company.
    • Providing the trading powers of the company to the Court of Directors.
    • For the management of political affairs, a completely dedicated body was formed known as the Board of Control.
  • It was also the foundation of double governance or dual government in India, as the separation of power was introduced for the first time.
  • The Board of Control was handed over the complete authority to manage civil matters, revenue-related issues, and military operations in British India.
  • The Governor-General of India was still liable to be overridden by the Council appointed by the parliament. But since the number of council members was reduced from 4 to 3, the Governor-General could easily predominate his decisions with the only help of one supporter from the council. Also, the Governor-General enjoyed the Casting Vote or Veto Power.
  • The territories occupied by the East India Company were referred to as the British territories for the first time in any act.

Significance of Pitt’s India Act 1784

Two major changes were observed in the company's constitution with the passage of Pitt’s India Act. They were-

  • The councils of Madras and Bombay were modified on the model of the Bengal Council.
  • The members of the Executive council were decreased to 3 while the Commander-in-chief of this executive council was the Governor-General himself.
  • A separate department, known as the Board of Control, was being constituted in England in order to control the policies of the Court of Directors.
  • Introduction of dual government that is by the company as well as by the Parliament. This system of government lasted till 1858.

Defects of Pitt’s India Act

Some prominent drawbacks of Pitt's Act are listed below:

  • The reduction of executive council members gave the Governor-General an extra edge. This is so because the Governor-General needed only one vote from the executive council for the implementation of his willful decisions.
  • The clash of powers between the executive council and the Governor-General in case of any deadlock regarding voting on a certain decision making.
  • The Governor-General was deprived of his military powers while he was the supreme commander of the East India Company, and the Parliament was situated in England. During emergency situations, sudden military decisions are to be taken, but due to Pitt’s India Act1784, the Governor-General was left with no military powers.
  • The powers of the Governor-General, the Board of Control, and the Court of Directors were not clearly described.

Pitt’s India Act 1784 UPSC Question

Question: Assertion (A): Pitt’s India Act of 1784 distinguished between the commercial and political functions of the British East India Company.

Reason (R): Pitt’s India Act of 1784 allowed the Court of Directors to manage commercial affairs but created a new body called the Board of Control to manage political affairs. Thus, it established a system of double government.

Codes:

A. Both A and R are true and R is the correct explanation of A

B. Both A and R are true but R is not a correct explanation of A

C. A is true but R is false

D. Both A & R is not true

Answer: Option A

Question: Which one of the following was the idea behind establishing the Board of Control through the Pitts India Act 1784?

  1. To protect the British possessions in India
  2. To promote the trading interests in India

Select the correct code:

  1. A) 1 is true but 2 is false,
  2. B) 2 is true but 1 is false.
  3. C) 1 and 2 both are true.
  4. D) 1 and 2 both are false.

Answer: Option C

Pitt’s India Act 1784 UPSC

The Pitt's India act of 1784 is an important event in the syllabus of Indian Polity. To learn more about Pitt's India Act 1784 UPSC, download the NCERT books for UPSC. Aspirants who are going to appear for the UPSC Exam this year must prepare well for this topic by reading this article till the end. Also, download the Pitt's India Act PDF from the direct link above to access it anytime on your device.

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FAQs on Pitt’s India Act 1784

  • Dual Government was established under Pitt’s Act 1784. This Court of directors represented the company, whereas the Board of Control represented the British Crown.

  • Pitt's India Act launched the system of dual government in India. Company territories in India were called British possessions in India. The British government exercises complete authority over the administration in India.

  • The Pitt’s India Act was passed by the British Parliament to fix the Defects of regulating act 1773. Warren Hastings was the governor-general at that time.

  • The Board of Control was established to keep a check on the military-civil and revenue affairs of the company. Remembers of the governor-generals council in India were reduced to 3 members. The military and civil officials were forced to disclose their property details.

  • The Pitt's India Act of 1784 was passed to remove the defects of the Regulating Act of 1773. The Act differentiated the commercial and political affairs of the Company, thus establishing a system of double government in India by the Crown in Great Britain and the British East India Company.

  • The Pitt's India Act was introduced by the British prime minister William Pitt the Younger. It was introduced to remove the flaws of the regulating Act of 1773.

  • To download the Pitt’s India Act 1784 UPSC Notes PDF, click here. You can also go through the article mentioned here to have a quick overview of the Act, which is important from the UPSC exam perspective.

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