An Act to make better Provision for the Constitution of the Council of the Governor General of India, and for the Local Government of the several Presidencies and Provinces of India, and for the temporary Government of India in the event of a Vacancy in the Office of Governor General.
The Indian Councils Act 1861 was an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom that transformed the Viceroy of India's executive council into a cabinet run on the portfolio system. This cabinet had six "ordinary members" who each took charge of a separate department in Calcutta's government: home, revenue, military, law, finance, and (after 1874) public works. The military Commander-in-Chief sat in with the council as an extraordinary member. The Viceroy was allowed, under the provisions of the Act, to overrule the council on affairs if he deemed it necessary - as was the case in 1879, during the tenure of Lord Lytton.
The Secretary of State for India at the time the Act was passed, Sir Charles Wood, believed that the Act was of immense importance: "the act is a great experiment. That everything is changing in India is obvious enough, and that the old autocratic government cannot stand unmodified is indisputable."
The 1861 Act restored the legislative power taken away by the Charter Act of 1833. The legislative council at Calcutta was given extensive authority to pass laws for British India as a whole, while the legislative councils at Bombay and Madras were given the power to make laws for the "Peace and good Government" of their respective presidencies.The Governor General was given the power to create new provinces for legislative purposes. He also could appoint Lt. Governors for the same. However from India's point of view the act did little to improve the influence of Indians in the legislative council. The role of council was limited to advice. No financial discussion could take place.
^Short title as conferred by s. 1 of the Act; the modern convention for the citation of short titles omits the initial "The", ignores the italicisation of "Indian", and omits the comma after the word "Act".