Secretary of State for India

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Secretary of State for India was a British cabinet member in charge of Indian affairs since 1858. During the company period, parliament indirectly controlled Indian affairs through a parliamentary body called the board of control, an institution created by the pitt’s india act of 1784. The President of the Board was a parliament member and enjoyed the status of a cabinet minister. The Government of india act, 1858 abolished the Board of Control and replaced the President of the Board by the Secretary of State for India.

The Secretary of State for India was not merely a new nomenclature for the President of the old Board of Control. The Government of India Act, 1858 made a senior member of the British cabinet responsible for Indian affairs. His designation was Secretary of State for India-in Council. A 15-member Council versed in Indian affairs would assist the Secretary of State for India in controlling the Indian Empire from London. The salaries of the Secretary of State, Council members and the Council staff would be paid out of the revenues of India.

During the company period, the Governor General-in Council had been exercising the supreme authority concerning Indian administration. The Supreme Government in Calcutta took all initiatives and these were as a matter of course approved by the Board of Control and court of directors. But now the Governor General was reduced to a subordinate colleague to the Secretary of State who now wielded all the powers hitherto exercised by the Board of Control, the Court of Directors and the Court of Proprietors. In addition to these powers, he got the power to appoint and recall the Governor General. From 1858 to 1919, the Secretary of State had initiated and influenced all the legislation and reform measures in India. The Governor General was there only to receive orders from the Secretary of State on all important policy measures and implement them.

But with the introduction of representative government in India in 1919 and with the progressive expansion of constitutionality, the powers of the Secretary of State were proportionately curtailed. These were gradually transferred to the representative institutions in India. After the enactment of the India Act of 1935, the Secretary of State became a figurehead. [Sirajul Islam]