The process of the formation and evolution of the Constitution of India is based in long history. It started with introduction of Regulating Acts to administer the territories under Company rule from 1773. After the company rule was ended in 1858, the Crown took over the control of British territories in India and started decentralizing administrative power, very gradually, to the provincial level. Many controversial changes were made in the Charter Acts (acts governing the administration of Indian government) like the Morley Minto Reforms of 1909, which introduced communal electorates, and shaped the dark history of communalism in India. Eventually, the India Independence Act was passed in 1947, and formation of constituent assembly with leaders like Nehru, MN Roy and BR Ambedkar, who shaped the Constitution as we have today.

**All Acts etc. in notes of History of Modern India**


  1. Company Rule till 1757
  1. Regulating Act of 1773
    1. Created Governor General of Bengal and all the governors in British Indian territories came under him. Lord Warren Hastings was the first one.
    2. Created a Supreme Court est. at Calcutta in 1774
    3. Court of Directors (governing body of the company) to provide report of revenue, civil and military affairs in India to the British
  2. Pitt’s India Act of 1784
    1. Created Board of Control that took over military affairs of the Company in India
    2. Court of Directors now responsible only for revenues and commercial interests
    3. First time the Indian territories called British possessions.
  3. Charter Act of 1833
    1. Governor General of Bengal became the Governor General of India
    2. Governor General of India given exclusive legislative and executive powers
    3. Company just became an administrative body now, not even a commercial body any more
    4. Open civil services introduced, but allowing Indians to take it was opposed
  4. Charter Act of 1853
    1. Legislative and Executive powers of the Governor General of India separated
    2. 6 member council formed to advise Governor General of India – Indian Legislative Council “mini parliament”
    3. Open civil services exam on a competitive basis
    4. Introduced local representation in the Indian Legislative Council – 4 were elected from local provinces of Madras, Bengal, Bombay and Agra
  1. Crown Rule:
  1. Government of India Act 1858 — “Act for Good Governance of India” 
    1. Passed all the powers of the Company to the Crown and ended company rule effectively. British territories of India were now under the Crown and the Parliament directly.
    2. Office of Governor General abolished and that of Viceroy of India created. Lord Canning was the first Viceroy. He would fall under the Secretary of State, who was part of the British Cabinet. Hence, the powers of administering India came directly under the British Parliament.
    3. 15 member council (known as Council of India) created to assist the Secretary of State in India. Council was an advisory body.
    4. Sec. of State in-council a body corporate, capable of suing and being sued in India and in England.
    5. The Council of India was exclusively English, with some nominees of the Crown and others representatives of the Directors of the East India company.
    6. All powers, military, civil, executive and legislative vested in the Governor General responsible to the Secretary of state.
    7. Didn’t change the system of government in India, just changed its administrative functions
  2. India Councils Act 1861 (Indians as non-official members, Ordinance power, decentralization of power started, new legislative councils, Portfolio System)
    1. Provided that viceroy should include Indians as non-official members in his extended council.
  1. These were nominated and not popularly elected
  2. Lord Canning nominated: Raja of Banares, Maharaja of Patiala and Sir Dinkar Rao
    1. Started decentralizing the administration of India by restoring legislative powers to Bombay and Madras.
    2. Established new legislative councils of Punjab, Bengal, NW Frontier etc.
    3. Empowered Viceroy to issue ordinances without concurrence of the legislative council, during an emergency, the life of which was six months and he also became in charge of the departments of government in India.
    4. “Portfolio system” — Lord Canning 1859: one or more members of the council made in-charge of depts. and issued final orders on behalf of the council on matters of his department.
  1. India Councils Act of 1892
    1. Pretty much the same, added some more features which were largely
  2. Morley Minto Reforms of 1909
    1. Increased the size of the legislative councils both at the Centre and in Provinces.
    2. Enlarged the deliberative functions of the legislative council as members were allowed to ask supplemental questions
    3. Allowed for the association of Indian members to the Viceroy’s Executive council. Satyendra Prasad Sinha was the first Indian to join the Viceroy’s council.
    4. Introduced communal representation of Muslims in a “separate electorate” 
  3. Montague-Chelmsford Reforms 1919
    1. System of dyarchy was introduced in India for the first time, with the separation of lists on which decisions could be taken by the Centre and Provinces respectively.
    2. “The Reserved” List was introduced which was a list of items on which only the Central Council could take decisions (with Viceroy and his executive council) and make laws, while a “Transferred” list was introduced on which the Provincial Legislative Council (Governor and executive council) would take decisions and make laws.
    3. Hence, the process of decentralization was further expanded and provisions were made to introduce self-governance in the provinces. Introduced provincial budget and Central budgets. However, provinces were not autonomous and didn’t have complete power over finances, due to which this system was largely unsuccessful.
    4. Introduced, Bicameralism for the first time in India and direct elections. The Indian Legislative council was replaced by the Upper House and the Lower House.
    5. 3 of 6 members of the Viceroy’s executive council were Indians
    6. Expanded communal representation to Christians, Anglo Indians and Europeans
    7. Franchise granted to a very few people only on the basis of taxes, property etc.
  4. Simon Commission – 1927
  5. Communal Award – 1932
  6. Government of India Act 1935
    1. At the Provincial Level
  1. Ended the system of Dyarchy at the Provincial level as introduced by the GOI Act 1919 and introduced Provincial Autonomy
  2. The grant of a large measure of autonomy to the provinces of British India (ending the system of dyarchy introduced by the Government of India Act 1919)
    1. The Provincial Governors retained important reserve powers, and
    2. The British authorities also retained a right to suspend responsible government.
    3. Now direct elections to be held hence the ministers were collectively responsible to the provincial legislature
    4. Communal award was introduced and depressed classes, in addition to Muslims, Christians etc., were now given reserved seats in the legislature
    1. Provision for the establishment of a “Federation of India”, to be made up of both British India and some or all of the “princely states”.
    2. Introduction of Direct Elections hence increasing the franchise from 7 million to 35 million
    3. Reorganization of the provinces
    4. At the Central Level:
  1. Dyarchy and Bicameral Legislatures
  2. Reserved and Transfered list at this level.
    1. Reserved: Defence, External Affairs, Tribal Areas administration
  • Bicameral Legislature
    1. Council of States: Elected Directly
    2. Federal Assembly: Elected Indirectly
    1. Establishment of a Federal Court
  1. India Independence Act 1947
  1. Derivations from foreign constitutions in the Indian Constitution: 
    1. Appointment of President – not on American lines
    2. Appointment of the Governor – not on American lines but on Canadian lines
    3. American constitution designed as a Federal constitution where regardless of situations in the country, the country is always kept in tight mould of federalism. In India, BR Ambedkar and constitution designers took a different route as they decided to make it a Unitary as well as Federal system according to the conditions of the time and circumstances. In normal times, it works as a federal system, but in times of emergency it becomes more of a unitary system.(Articles 352-360 outline the emergency provisions)