Charter Act Of 1853

Introduction to the last charter act :-

The Charter Act 1853 was passed in the British Parliament to renew the East India Company’s charter. Unlike the previous charter acts of 1793, 1813 and 1833 which renewed the charter for 20 years; this act did not mention the time period for which the company charter was being renewed. This Act was passed when Lord Dalhousie was the Governor-General of India. Charter Act of 1853 was the last charter act passed for East India Company.  It was passed on expiry of charter act of 1833. The charter was renewed but no substantial changes were made. However, this was for the first time, that this charter act, unlike other charter acts, did not fix any limit for the continuance of the administration of the company in India. The act provided that the Indian territories will remain under the Governance of the company, until the parliament otherwise directed.

Provisions of the act

  • Governor-General’s office

  • The Law member (fourth member) became a full member with the right to vote.
  •  The Legislative Council which had six members now had 12 members.
  • The 12 members were: 1 Governor-General, 1 Commander-in-Chief, 4 members of the Governor-General’s Council, 1 Chief Justice of the Supreme Court at Calcutta, 1 regular judge of the Supreme Court at Calcutta, and 4 representative members drawn from among the company’s servants with at least 10 years tenure, appointed by the local governments of Bengal, Bombay, Madras and North Western Provinces.

  • The Governor-General could nominate a vice president to the council.


  • The Governor-General’s assent was required for all legislative proposals.


  • The Court of Directors could create a new presidency or province. This was because of the difficulties that were faced in administering the increasingly large Indian territories of Britain.


  • Since 1833 and 1853, two new provinces of Sind and Punjab were added.


  • It could also appoint a Lieutenant Governor for these provinces. In 1859, a Lt. Governor was appointed for Punjab.


  • This Act also led to the creation of Assam, Burma and the Central Provinces.
    The Act provided for the appointment of a separate governor for the Bengal Presidency. It maintained that the governor of Bengal should be different from the Governor-General who was to head administration of the whole of India.


  • The number of Board of Directors was reduced from 24 to 18 out of which 6 people were to be nominated by the British Crown.
    Indian Civil Services


  • Macaulay Committee of 1854 gave India her first civil services.


  • This act removed the right of patronage to appointments in civil service held by the Court of Directors.


  • The appointment was to be done only by open competition based on merit and was open to all.


  • The report recommended that only the ‘fittest’ be selected to the ICS.

Features of the Charter Act 1853

  1.  For the first time, the legislative and executive functions of the Governor-General’s council were separated.

  2. This act served as the foundation of the modern parliamentary form of government. The legislative wing of the Governor-General’s Council acted as a parliament on the model of the British Parliament.


  3. It extended the company’s rule for an indefinite period, unlike the previous charter acts. Thus, it could be taken over by the British government at any time. Company’s  influence was further reduced by this act. The Board of Directors now had 6 members who were Crown-nominated.


  4. It gave birth to the Indian civil services and was open to all including Indians. This ended the system of appointments by recommendation and started a system of open and fair competition.


  5. For the first time, local representation was introduced into the legislative council in the form of four members from the local governments of Bengal, Bombay, Madras and North Western Provinces.


  6. Charter Act of 1853 was the last charter act passed for East India Company.  It was passed on expiry of charter act of 1833. The charter was renewed but no substantial changes were made. However, this was for the first time, that this charter act, unlike other charter acts, did not fix any limit for the continuance of the administration of the company in India. The act provided that the Indian territories will remain under the Governance of the company, until the parliament otherwise directed.

Contents  :-

Reduction in Number of Directors

Separate Governor for Presidency of Bengal

Power to constitute a new Presidency

Expansion of Governor General’s Office

Genesis of Indian Civil Services

New provinces

In England, Charter Act of 1853 reduced the number of Directors of the Company from 24 to 18. Out of these 18, six were to be appointed by the crown.

Reduction in Number of Directors

In England, Charter Act of 1853 reduced the number of Directors of the Company from 24 to 18. Out of these 18, six were to be appointed by the crown.
Separate Governor for Presidency of Bengal

The Charter act of 1853 provided for appointment of a separate Governor for the Presidency of Bengal, distinct from the Governor General. However, the court of Directors and the Board of Control were authorized to appoint a lieutenant governor, till the appointment of a Governor was made. Please note that the Lieutenant governor was appointed in 1854, but no Governor was appointed for Bengal till 1912.

Power to constitute a new Presidency

This act also empowered the Court of Directors either to constitute a new Presidency (In lines of Presidency of Madras or Bombay) or appoint a Lieutenant Governor. No new presidency was constituted but in 1859, a new Lieutenant governor was appointed for Punjab.

Expansion of Governor General’s Office

Charter Act of 1853 marks the expansion of the Council of the Governor General for legislative purposes. The fourth member was placed at an equal status with other members. The council of legislative purposes which had 6 members now was expanded to 12 members.

• These 12 members were :

•  The Governor General =1

•  The commander in Chief =1

•  Members of the Governor General’s Council=4

•  Chief Justice of the Supreme Court (Calcutta)=1

•   A regular judge of the Supreme court Calcutta=1

•  Representative members drawn from the company’s servants with 10 years minimum tenure and.   appointed by the local governments of Bengal, Madras, Bombay and North Western provinces=4

• Total =12

Genesis of Indian Civil Services

The previous charter act of 1833 had laid down that the Court of Directors should nominate annually 4 times as many candidates as there were vacancies, from whom one should be selected by competitive examination. The charter act of 1833 also provided the Hailey bury college of London should make quota to admit the future civil servants. However, this system of an open competition was never effectively operated. A committee under the chairmanship of Lord Macaulay had prepared the regulations in this context. The report said that:

Hailey bury should cease to be maintained as higher education college for the ICS

There should be a broad general education rather than specialized education for the ICS recruits

The recruitment should be based upon an open competitive examination to bring out the best candidates and not through mere superficial knowledge

The appointments should be subject to a period of probation.

Charter Act of 1853 deprived the Court of Directors of its right of Patronage to Indian appointments and now it was to be exercised under the regulations. This was the Birth of Civil Services which was thrown in 1854 for open competition.



New provinces

By that time, the administrative situation got hard due to annexation of new territories to the company’s possession in India. The Charter Act of 1853 empowered the Governor General of India-in Council to take over by proclamation under his immediate authority and management of the territories for the time being. He was authorized to issue necessary orders and directions for its administrations or provide for its administration. This resulted in creation of Assam, the central provinces, and Burma.

Features of the act  in short :-

  1. It separated, for the first time, the legislative and executive functions of the Governor- General’s council. It provided for addition of six new members called legislative councillors to the council. In other words, it established a separate Governor-General’s legislative council which came to be known as the Indian (Central) Legislative Council. This legislative wing of the council functioned as a mini-Parliament, adopting the same procedures as the British Parliament. Thus, legislation, for the first time, was treated as a special function of the government, requiring special machinery and special process.

  2.  It introduced an open competition system of selection and recruitment of civil servants. The covenanted civil service was thus thrown open to the Indians also. Accordingly, the Macaulay Committee (the Committee on the Indian Civil Service) was appointed in 1854.


  3.  It extended the Company’s rule and allowed it to retain the possession of Indian territories on trust for the British Crown. But, it did not specify any particular period, unlike the previous Charters. This was a clear indication that the Company’s rule could be terminated at any time the Parliament liked.                                                
  •  It introduced, for the first time, local representation in the Indian (Central) Legislative Council. Of the six new legislative members of the governor-general’s council, four members were appointed by the local (provincial) governments of Madras, Bombay, Bengal and Agra.

  • The Act renewed the powers of the Company and allowed it to retain processions over Indian territories in trust for Her Majesty, her heirs and successors. The number of Court of Directors was reduced to 18, of whom six were to be appointed by the Crown from among the Indian servants. The Act also empowered Court of directors to create a new Presidency and alter the boundaries of the Presidencies in India. The Act created a separate Legislative Council for India for the first time. The law member of the Governor Council was given the rank of a full-fledged member in the The Charter Act of 1853 increased the number of legislative council members. The new legislative Council was consisted of 12 members. 1. Governor General (1) 2. Governor General Council (4) 3. Commander-in-Chief (1) 4. Four representatives from providences (4) 5. Chief Justice of Supreme Court Justice (1) 6. A regular judge from Supreme Court to be named by Governor General. (1) Governor General presided over the all meetings.

  •  The Act empowered the Governor General to reject any laws passed by the Council. But, had no power to pass to legislation which was dissented by the majority of the Council. The procedure of the Legislative Council was modeled more or less on the line of the British Parliament. The Act authorized the Crown to appoint a Law Commission in England to examine the work and recommendations of First Law Commission. 4


  •  A separate Governor appointed for Presidency.

Significance of Charter Act 1853

The Charter Act 1853 indicated clearly that the rule of the Company was not going to last a long time. The power and influence of the company were curtailed. British Crown could nominate six Directors. Further, marks the beginning of Parliamentary system in India because of the key feature that Legislative Council was clearly distinguished from the Executive Council. The Governor General was relieved of the administrative duties of Bengal. He was to devote his whole time to work for the Government of India.

Aishwarya Says:

I have always been against Glorifying Over Work and therefore, in the year 2021, I have decided to launch this campaign “Balancing Life”and talk about this wrong practice, that we have been following since last few years. I will be talking to and interviewing around 1 lakh people in the coming 2021 and publish their interview regarding their opinion on glamourising Over Work.

If you are interested in participating in the same, do let me know.

Do follow me on FacebookTwitter  Youtube and Instagram.

The copyright of this Article belongs exclusively to Ms. Aishwarya Sandeep. Reproduction of the same, without permission will amount to Copyright Infringement. Appropriate Legal Action under the Indian Laws will be taken.

If you would also like to contribute to my website, then do share your articles or poems at adv.aishwaryasandeep@gmail.com

We also have a Facebook Group Restarter Moms for Mothers or Women who would like to rejoin their careers post a career break or women who are enterpreneurs.

We are also running a series Inspirational Women from January 2021 to March 31,2021, featuring around 1000 stories about Indian Women, who changed the world. #choosetochallenge

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