Pitt's India Act
|Long title||An Act for the better Regulation and Management of the Affairs of the East India Company and of the British Possessions in India, and for establishing a Court of Judicature for the more speedy and effectual Trial of Persons accused of Offences committed in the East Indies|
|Citation||24 Geo. 3 Sess. 2 c. 25|
|Commencement||13 August 1784|
|Repealed by||Government of India (Amendment) Act 1916|
The East India Company Act 1784, also known as Pitt's India Act, was an Act of the Parliament of Great Britain intended to address the shortcomings of the Regulating Act of 1773 by bringing the East India Company's rule in India under the control of the British Government. Named for British prime minister William Pitt the Younger, the act provided for the appointment of a Board of Control, and provided for a joint government of British India by the Company and the Crown with the government holding the ultimate authority.
By 1773 the East India Company was in dire financial straits and asked for assistance from the British Government. Faced with corruption and nepotism amongst the company officials in India, the British Government enacted the Regulating Act in 1773 to control the activities of the Company. The Act set up a system whereby it supervised (regulated) the work of the Company but did not take power for itself. The Act had proven to be a failure within a few years and the British government decided to take a more active role in the affairs of the Company.
Provisions of the 1784 Act
The Act provided for not more than six Privy Counsellors, including a Secretary of State and the Chancellor of the Exchequer to be appointed "Commissioners for the Affairs of India". Of these, not fewer than three formed a Board to execute the powers under the Act.
The Board was presided over by the president, who soon effectively became the minister for the affairs of the East India Company. Section 3 of the Act provided that the President was to be the Secretary of State, whom failing the Chancellor of the Exchequer, whom failing the most senior of the other Commissioners.
The Act stated that the Board would henceforth "superintend, direct and control" the government of the Company's possessions, in effect controlling the acts and operations relating to the civil, military and revenues of the Company.
The Board was supported by a Chief Secretary.
The governing council of the Company was reduced to three members. The governors of Bombay and Madras were also deprived of their independence. The governor-general was given greater powers in matters of war, revenue and diplomacy.
By a supplementary act passed in 1786 Lord Cornwallis was appointed as the 2nd governor-general of Bengal, and he then became the effective ruler of British India under the authority of the Board of Control and the Court of Directors. The constitution set up by Pitt's India Act did not undergo any major changes until the end of the company's rule in India in 1858.
- Short title as conferred by the Short Titles Act 1896, s. 1; the modern convention for the citation of short titles omits the comma after the word "Act".
- John Keay, The Honourable Company. A History of the English East India Company. Macmillan Publishing Company, 1991, p. 390.
- Nilakanta Sastri, K.A.; Srinivasachari (2000). Advanced History of India. New Delhi: Allied Publishers Ltd.
- "The Pitt's Act". Retrieved 2006-06-26.
- Furber, Holden. "The East India Directors in 1784," Journal of Modern History (Dec., 1933) 5#4, pp. 479–495 in JSTOR, reprints primary sources
- Philips, C. H. "The East India Company 'Interest' and the English Government, 1783-4." Transactions of the Royal Historical Society (Fourth Series) 20 (1937) pp: 83-101.