The expansion of British influence into new territories and new issues, demands, experiences, and ideas led to changes in the administrative structure. What was the administrative organization during British rule? What were the major classifications? What were the main acts related to these administrative structures? Read the article to know more about the administrative organization during the British rule.
The East India Company was founded in 1600, and after becoming a controlling body in 1765, it had little immediate influence on Indian politics and government.
However, there were major constitutional and governmental changes during the Company administration from 1773 to 1858 and British Crown rule from 1858 to 1947.
These modifications were unwittingly made to India’s political and administrative structure to advance British imperial ideology.
Major changes introduced
The Company first limited its efforts to oversight, leaving the management of its assets in India in the hands of Indians. However, it was soon seen that sticking to outdated administrative practices did not sufficiently suit British objectives. As a result, the Company handled every part of administration on its own.
Bengal’s government was radically reorganised under Warren Hastings and Cornwallis, who established a new system based on the English organisational structure. The expansion of British influence into new territories and new issues, demands, experiences, and ideas led to changes in the administrative structure. However, the larger goals of imperialism were never forgotten.
The British administration in India was based on three pillars
- The Civil Service
- The Army
- The Police
The upkeep of peace and order and the continuation of British authority was the major goal of the British Indian administration. British manufacturers and merchants could not possibly hope to sell their products in every nook and cranny of India without law and order.
Being foreigners, the British had no chance of winning the hearts of the Indian populace; as a result, they depended on superior military rather than popular support to maintain their dominance over India.
The major changes introduced by the British are:
Creation of a police system
Cornwallis was in charge of setting up India’s modern police force. He built a daroga-led system of Thanas (or circles).
Code of Cornwallis
- The set of policies that made up British India’s administrative structure, the Cornwallis, or Bengal, system, was given legal shape by Lord Cornwallis, governor-general of India.
- The system spread throughout northern India after a set of regulations were published on May 1st, 1793, starting in Bengal.
- Prior to the Charter Act of 1833, these were the main pillars upon which British India’s governance was based.
The Police Commission of 1860
- In accordance with the Police Commission’s recommendations, the Indian Police Act of 1861 was passed (1860).
- The commission promoted a civil police force with a superintendent in charge of each district, a deputy inspector-general in command of each range, and an inspector-general in control of each province.
- Crimes like dacoity and thugee were gradually decreased by the police.
- In India, there was no national police force established by the British. The Police Act of 1861 laid the groundwork for a provincial police force.
Development of Judiciary
Hastings initiated the system, but Cornwallis made it workable.
Reforms to the Judiciary under Warren Hastings
- To settle civil issues involving both Hindu and Muslim law, district-level Diwani Adalats were set up.
- The Sadar Diwani Adalat heard the appeal from the District Diwani Adalats.
- The Sadar Nizamat Adalat in Murshidabad, which oversaw the death penalty and the purchase of land, was run by a deputy Nizam (an Indian Muslim) with assistance from the senior mufti and chief qazi.
- A Supreme Court was established in Calcutta by the Regulating Act of 1773 with the power to hear cases involving all British subjects, including Indians and Europeans, who were present in Calcutta and its associated factories. It was a court with both original and appellate jurisdiction.
Changes made by Cornwallis
- Cornwallis dissolved the District Fauzadari Court, and Circuit Courts were set up at Calcutta, Decca, Murshidabad, and Patna.
- European justices sit on its appeals court, which handles both civil and criminal issues.
- He transferred Sadar Nizamat Adalat to Calcutta, where it was overseen by the Governor-General and Supreme Council members, with the help of Chief Qazi and Chief Mufti.
- A district judge presided over the District, City, or Zila Court, which had been renamed from the District Diwani Adalat.
Alterations made by William Bentinck
- The four Circuit Courts were dissolved under William Bentinck, and the duties of the former courts were given to collectors who were supervised by the commissioner of revenue and circuit.
- The Sadar Diwani Adalat and the Sadar Nizamat Adalat were founded in Allahabad.
- He established English as the official language for Supreme Court sessions, Persian, and vernacular language for lower court proceedings.
- Macaulay formed the Law Commission during his rule, which codified Indian laws.
- This commission served as the foundation for the creation of the Civil Procedure Code of 1859, the Indian Penal Code of 1860, and the Criminal Procedure Code of 1861.
Development of Civil Services
The East India Company established a civil service system in India for the benefit of its commercial concerns, and it eventually developed into a well-organized system to handle the administrative affairs of India’s newly acquired territories.
Charter Act 1853
- The 1853 Charter Act, which required that future hiring be done through an open competition, ended the Company’s patronage.
- On the other side, Indians were prohibited from prominent posts from the beginning.
- All positions worth 500 pounds annually were reserved for the Company’s covenanted servants under the Charter Act of 1793.
Indian Civil Service Act 1861
- The Indian Civil Services Act was passed under the viceroyalty of Lord Canning.
- Certain jobs were reserved for covenanted civil servants under this Act, however, the examination was conducted in English and was based on classical Greek and Latin knowledge.
- The legal age limit gradually dropped from 23 in 1859 to 22 in 1860, 21 in 1866, and 19 in 1909. (in 1878).
Statutory Civil Service
- In 1878–1879, Lytton formed the Statutory Civil Service, with Indians of high families filling one-sixth of covenanted jobs through local government nominations, subject to ratification by the secretary of state and the viceroy.
- The system was repealed because it was ineffective.
- In 1886, a commission headed by Sir Charles Aitchison was established to come up with a strategy for including Indians in all areas of government service.
- It was intended to examine the question of Indian employment in both the uncovenanted service that covered lower-level administrative jobs as well as the appointments typically reserved by law for members of the covenanted civil service.
- The Statutory Civil Service was proposed to be abolished, and the civil services were divided into three groups: Imperial, Provincial, and Subordinate.
Montford Reform 1919
- Three levels of service categorization were recommended by the Government of India Act on Constitutional Reforms of 1919: All India, Provincial, and Subordinate.
- The term “All India Services” was used to describe all Imperial services present at the period in the provinces, whether in reserved or transferred departments.
- In terms of dismissal, pay, pensions and other rights, All India Services employees received special protections.
- The Act advocated the creation of a Public Service Commission charged with hiring for the service as a defence against political interference.
- The British government created the Lee Commission in 1923 to look into the racial makeup of the superior Indian public services provided by the Indian government.
- The committee, which included both British and Indian members in equal numbers, was led by Lord Lee of Fareham.
- The Lee Commission suggested in 1924 that 20% of new recruits come from the provincial service and that 40% of future entrants be British, and 40% be directly recruited Indians.
Government of India Act,1935
- Within their respective spheres, the 1935 Act proposed the establishment of a Federal Public Service Commission and a Provincial Public Service Commission.
- However, positions of control and authority remained in British hands, and the process of Indianisation of civil service did not provide Indians with effective political power because Indian bureaucrats acted as agents of colonial rule.
A new system of land holding and Land Revenue
A few New systems of land holding and Land Revenue were introduced by the British. They were :
The Permanent Land Revenue Settlement of Bengal was the administrative action taken by Lord Cornwallis that garnered the most attention. The introduction of the Permanent Settlement for Bengal, Bihar, and Orissa occurred in 1793. Its unique characteristics were:
The Bengali zamindars were acknowledged as landowners as long as they made regular payments of income to the East India Company.
- The revenue the zamindars were required to pay the Company was set in stone and could not be increased under any circumstances. In other words, the zamindars received the remaining 11% while the East India Company’s government received 89%.
- Because they were regarded as the soil’s tillers, the ryots were made tenants.
- This agreement eliminated the zamindars’ judicial and administrative duties. Therefore, this elite was bound to support British rule by its own fundamental interests.
Primarily in Madras, Berar, Bombay, and Assam were introduced. This technique was implemented in the Madras Presidency by Sir Thomas Munro.
- The peasant was acknowledged as the landowner under this arrangement.
- The peasantry and the government did not have a middleman like a zamindar.
- The peasant has not kicked off the land as long as he paid the revenue on time.
- The land revenue was set for increments of 20 to 40 years.
Here, the British also recognised peasants who paid state taxes directly and members of local groups known as mirasdars. These mirasdars rose to become modest landowners. The following three factors, however, nullified the ryot’s claim of ownership. They had to pay revenue even when their produce was destroyed in whole or in part because of the following: a. exorbitant land revenue; b. the government’s right to increase land revenue at will.
- The Mahalwari settlement was first established in 1833 in Punjab, Central Provinces, and portions of the North Western Provinces. The village or the Mahal served as the fundamental unit of revenue settlement under this system.
- The entire Mahal, or village community, was in charge of paying the revenue because the village properties belonged to them all jointly. As a result, when the revenue was set, the village’s whole land area was measured.
- Although the Mahalwari system did away with middlemen between the government and the local community and improved irrigation facilities, the government was the primary beneficiary of its benefits.
Due to nationalist pressure, there was a sluggish process of Indianization after 1918, but crucial and senior jobs were still held by Europeans. The future of modern India was greatly influenced by changes in India’s governmental structure and policies. Positions of power and authority continued to be held by the British, nevertheless, the process of indigenizing the civil service did not give Indians real political sway because Indian bureaucrats served as proxies for colonial administration.
Article Written By: Atheena Fathima Riyas