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Indian Councils Act 1892:

Note-1
The Indian constitution came into existence after the Act of 1861. The growth of the
Indian constitution following Act of 1861 caused political disaffection and agitation
alternating the Council reforms. The council reforms approved always found
inadequate, hence stimulated disaffection and demand for the further reforms.

The Legislative reforms created by the Acts of 1861, naturally though failed to meet
the aspirations and the general demands of the people of the country. The element
of non-officials, though small in number however did not represent the people. This
group of non-officials belonged to the upper section or the aristocratic class of the
Indian society. They consisted either of big zamindars, retired officials or Indian
princess. These aristocrats were completely ignorant of the problems of the
common people in India.

During the later half of the 19th century the current of nationalist spirit began to
emerge in India. The setting up of the universities in the presidencies led to the
development of education. The use of English by the educated Indians brought then
close to one another. The gulf betweens the Indians and the British in the field of
the Civil Services incited the rage of the Indians. Moreover the repressive Acts made
by Lord Rippon, the Vernacular Press Act and the Indian Arms Act in the year 1878,
greatly exasperated the feelings of the Indians. The controversy between the
Government of India and the Government of England over the abolition of 5% cotton
duties made the Indians aware of the injustice of the British Government. As a
whole the hollowness and the insincerity of the British government was revealed to
the Indians. It was under these circumstances the Indian National Congress was
formed in the year 1885. The sole motto of the congress was to organize the public
opinions in India, thereby ventilate their grievances and demand reforms
constitutionally.

In the beginning though the attitudes of the British Governments to the Indian
National Congress was friendly, yet by 1888, that attitudes changed when Lord
Dufferin made a frontal attack on the Congress. Thus Lords Dufferin tried to belittle
the importance of the representative characters of Congress. But he did not
understand the significance of the movement launched by the congress. He secretly
sent to England the proposals for liberalizing the Councils. He also appointed a
committee of his council to prepare plans for the enlargement of the Provincial
councils, for enhancement of their status, the multiplication of their functions,
introduction of elective principles in the councils and the liberalization of their
general character as political institutions. The report of the Committee was sent to
the Home authorities in England proposing for the changes in the composition and
functions of the Councils. The main aim of the reports was to give the Indian
gentlemen wider share in the administration. The Conservative Ministry in England,
introduced in the year 1890 a bill in the House of Lords on the basis of this
proposals. But the measures adopted in the Bill were preceded very slowly and was
passed two years later as the Indian Councils Act in the year 1892. The Indian
council act of 1892, dealt exclusively with the powers, functions and the
compositions of the Legislative councils in India. With regard to the Central
Legislature, the Councils Act of 1892 provided that the number additional members
must not be less than ten or more than sixteen. The increase of the members of the
central Legislature was described as a very paltry and miserable addition. But
Curzon defended it on the ground that the efficiency of the deliberative body was
not necessarily commensurate with the numerical strength. The council Act of 1892
upheld that two fifth of the total members council were to be non-officials. It had
also been declared that non-officials were partly nominated and partly elected.

The principle of election conceded to a limited extent. The Indian Council Act of
1892 increased the members of the Legislatures. These members were entitled to
express their views upon the financial statements. The statement on the financial
affairs henceforth was decided to be prepared on the Legislature. But these
legislative members were not entitled to move resolutions or divide the houses in
respect of any financial question. These legislative members were empowered to
put questions with certain limits to the government on matters of interest after
giving a six days notice.

Regarding the provincial Legislature the Council Act enlarged the number of
additional members to not less than eight or more than twenty in case of Bombay
and Madras. The maximum for Bengal was also fixed at twenty. But for the
northwestern province and Oudh, the number was fixed at fifteen. The members of
the Provincial Legislature had to perform several functions. Their Chief function was
to secure the interpellation of the executive in the matters of the general public
interest. They could also discuss the policy of the government and ask questions,
which required a thorough previous notice. Their questions could also be disallowed
by the central government if necessary without assigning any reason.

The Indian Councils Act of 1892 introduced several new rules and regulations.
However the significant feature of this Indian council Act was the procedures of
election it introduced, though the word election was very carefully avoided in it. The
Act envisaged that apart from the elected official members there should be elected
non-official members, whose number was to be five. The non-official members of
the Council were one to be elected by each of the non-official member of the four
Provincial legislatures of Bombay, Madras and Calcutta and the Northwestern
province and one by the Calcutta Chamber of Commerce. The governor general
nominated the other five non-officials himself. Ins cases of Provincial Legislatures,
the bodies permitted to elects the members of Municipalities, District Boards,
Universities ands the Chamber of commerce. The methods of election however were
not mentioned in the clear terms. The "elected" members were officially declared as
"nominated" although after taking into consideration the recommendation of each
body. These Legislative bodies met in several sessions in order to prepare
recommendations to the governor general or head of the Provincial Government.
The person favored by the majority was not described as the "elected", rather they
were directly recommended for nomination.

The Indian Councils Act of 1892 was undoubtedly an advance on the Act of 1861.
The Act of 1892 widened the functions of the legislature. The members could ask
questions ands thus obtain information, which they desired, from the executive. The
Councils Act of 1892 made it obligatory that the financial accounts of the currents
year and the budget for the following year should be presented in the legislature.
The members were permitted to make general observations and on the budget and
make suggestions for increasing or decreasing revenue and expenditure.

Apart from these the recognition of the principle of election introduced by the Acts
of 1892, was a measure of constitutional significance. However there were several
defects and shortcomings in the Acts of 1892 by the reason of which the Act failed
to satisfy the Indians nationalists. The Act was criticized at successive sessions of
the Indian national Congress. Critics haves opined that the procedure of election
was a roundabout one. This was so because though theoretically the process of
election was followed, in actuality these local bodies were the nominated members.
Moreover the function of the legislative councils was strictly circumscribed. In
conclusion it can be said that despite the fact that the Indian councils Act of 1892
fell far short of the demands made by the Indian National Congress, yet it was
undoubtedly a great advance on the existing state of things.

Note-2

Indian Councils Act 1892 was the beginning of the parliamentary System in India. Before this act
was passed, the Indian National Congress had adopted some resolutions in its sessions in 1885
and 1889 and put its demand.

The major demands placed were as follows:

A simultaneous examination of ICS to be held in England and India


Reforms of the legislative council and adoption of the principle of election in place of
nomination
Opposition to the annexation of Upper Burma

Reduction in the Military expenditure.

The second demand mentioned above reflected the dissatisfaction of the Indian National
Congress over the existing system of governance. The Indian leaders wanted admission
of a considerable number of the elected members. They also wanted the creation of
similar councils of North western Province and Oudh and also for Punjab

The Indian leaders also wanted a right to discussion on budget matters.

Viceroy Lord Dufferin set up a committee. The committee was given the responsibility to
draw a plan for the enlargement of the provincial councils and enhancement of their
status. The plan was drawn, but when it was referred to the Secretary of State for India,
he did not agree to introduction of the Principle of election.
The Indian Councils Act 1892 gave the members right to ask questions on Budget or
matters of public Interest.

But none of them was given right to ask supplementary questions.


The act was 1892 can be said to be a First step towards the beginning of the
parliamentary system in India, where the members are authorized to ask questions.
At least, they were enabled to indulge in a criticism of the Financial Policy of the
Government.

The Indian Councils act 1892 can also be said to introduce the principle of representation.
This act authorized the universities, District Boards, Municipalities, Zamindars and
Chambers of Commerce to send members to Provincial councils.

The Indian Councils act 1892 increased the number of the additional members in case of
the council of the governor general to maximum of 16. In case of Bombay and Madras 8-
20 and In case of the Bengal 20 and In case of North Western province and Oudh 15.

Reaction to Indian Councils Act 1892

Contrary to the Congress faith in the policy of petition, prayer and protest, the Indian
Councils Act did not satisfy the public demand. The congress way of demand was seen as
a weakness by the British Government. This was evident from the following note by BG
Tilak:

"political rights will have to be fought for. The moderates think that these can be
won by persuasion. We Think that they can only be obtained by strong Pressure"

This was the beginning of the militant nationalism in India.

Note-3
The Indian Councils Act 1892 was an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom
that authorized an increase in the size of the various legislative councils in British
India. Enacted due to the demand of the Indian National Congress to expand
legislative council, the number of non-official members was increased both in
central and provincial legislative councils. The universities, district board,
municipalities, zamindars and chambers of commerce were empowered to
recommend members to provincial councils. Thus was introduced the principle of
representation. It also relaxed restrictions imposed by the Indian Councils Act 1861,
thus allowing the councils to discuss each year's annual financial statement. They
could also put questions within certain limits to the government on the matter of
public interest after giving six days' notice. Thus it prepared the base of Indian
Democracy.
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