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Pitt’s India Act, 1784


Pitt's India Act, 1784 the parliamentary enactment to cope with the situation arisen out of the operation of the regulating act, 1773. The Regulating Act had two major aims to achieve. One was the ideal of managing the new kingdom according to British principles of government from the very beginning and the other was to eliminate rampant corruption among the company officials in Bengal. But the operation of the Act proved to be ineffective in realising the objects. Majority members of the Council consistently opposed warren hastings in the administration of Bengal. Corruption remained as rampant as before. Impeachment of Hastings charged with manifold corruption and malpractices indicate that such depravity among officials was alleged to have been present there even in the highest executive. Evidences are there that the Council members took bribes from rajas and zamindars. Furthermore, both the English and native population showed concern about wide jurisdiction claimed by the supreme court. The jurisdiction of the Supreme Court was never clearly stated in the Regulating Act. The case of Raja nanda kumar is the glaring example of the despotic application of law by the Supreme Court.

Therefore, parliament felt that remedial measures must be taken to save the company and the new kingdom from total breakdown. Towards removing the defects of the Regulating Act a Bill was passed by the coalition government led by Fox in 1783, but the House of Lords rejected the Bill. The new government of Younger Pitt revived the bill in modified form and passed it into an Act in 1784. It was 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'.

The salient features relating to the governance of the kingdom of Bengal are as follows:

1.There shall be a Board of Control consisting of maximum six parliamentarians headed by a senior cabinet member to direct, superintend and control the affairs of the company's territorial possessions in the East Indies.

2.The Court of Directors shall establish a Secret Committee to work as a link between the Board and the Court.

3.The Governor General's council shall consist of three members one of whom shall be the commander-in-chief of the King's army in India. In case the members present in a meeting of the council shall any time be equally divided in opinion, the Governor General shall have two votes (one his own and another casting vote).

4.The government must stop further experiments in the revenue administration and proceed to make a permanent settlement with zamindars at moderate rate of revenue demand. The government must establish permanent judicial and administrative systems for the governance of the new kingdom.

5.All civilians and military officers must provide the Court of Directors a full inventory of their property in India and in Britain within two months of their joining their posts.

6.Severe punishment including confiscation of property, dismissal and jail, shall be inflicted on any civilian or military officer found guilty of corruption.

7.Receiving gifts, rewards, presents in kind or cash from the rajas, zamindars and other Indians are strictly prohibited and people found guilty of these offences shall be tried charged with corruption.

Parliament directly appointed Lord charles cornwallis to implement the Act. Immediately after his joining as Governor General in 1786, Cornwallis embarked upon the responsibility of reform works entrusted on him by parliament. In 1793 he completed his mission. He introduced permanent settlement, announced a judicial code, established administrative and police systems and then left for home in the same year. [Sirajul Islam]