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Court of Directors


Court of Directors the executive body of the east india company at the Leadenhall Street in London, the headquarters of the company, until its abolition in 1858. The shareholders of the company, collectively called the Court of Proprietors, elected annually members of the Court of Directors. Until 1784, the Court of Proprietors had exercised considerable powers over the Court of Directors. Such a control by profit-seeking shareholders became politically unacceptable when the company had become the sovereign authority of Bengal.

Thus, under the regulating act (1773) and the [[Pitt’s India Act, 1784|pitt’s india act, 1784, parliament curtailed the powers of the shareholders over the Court of Directors and their controlling authorities were shifted to a parliamentary committee called the board of control. The proprietors now could only discuss the policies of the directors but could in no way annul or amend them. Under the Pitt's India Act, the Court of Directors became a representative agency via the Board of Control. No revenue or political resolution could now be taken without the express consent of the Board of Control. The Court, however, did retain the privilege of 'patronage' in spite of the recent changes. The recruitment of the members of the covenanted civil service remained the absolute privilege of the Court of Directors until the Charter Act of 1853 when the privilege was abolished and a new system of recruiting civilians by competitive examinations introduced.

The directors were elected individually for four years. Of the total number of twenty-four members of the Court of Directors, six exited on rotation each year in April and new directors filled up their vacancies for four years. A retired director was not eligible to seek re-election until the following year. A seat in the Court of Directors was so coveted that the aspirants spent a lot of money and energy to get elected in the Court.

The Court of Directors performed its detailed administrative work by various committees most important of which were the Secret Committee, the Select Committee and the Committee of Correspondence. The Secret Committee dealt with political matters, Select Committee with general administrative affairs and Correspondence Committee with drafting letters to the Governor General in Council.

The Governor General in Council corresponded with the relevant committees of the Court for directives and orders. The members of the Court of Directors worked full time in their respective committees. A chairman elected annually by the members of the Court conducted the meetings of the Court. Besides having many pecuniary advantages, every director had a privilege of nominating two cadets a year to the service of the East India Company in India. The privilege of 'patronage', which was a source of immense social prestige and income, was abolished under the Charter Act of 1853. [Sirajul Islam]