Indian council act, (1892) – Summary

Under the leadership of Moderates, Congress passed resolutions and made representations demanding the enlargement of Legislative Councils and introduction of the system of elections.

These demands were reiterated in subsequent years by the early nationalists during the annual session of Indian National Congress.

Moreover, the British realized that in order to defend British rule in India it was important to satisfy the aspirations of those Indians who were prepared to confine their demands within the narrow constitutional framework without adversely affecting Government’s interest. Keeping this in view, the Indian Council Act of 1892 was passed.

The Indian Council Act of 1892 was an Amending Act to the Indian Council Act of 1861. It did not introduce any significant changes in the existing set up.

It increased the number of additional members in the Legislative Councils and enlarged their functions.

The number of additional members of the Central Legislative Council was increased to minimum 1O and maximum 16.

Half of these members were supposed to be non-official i.e. persons not in the Civil or Military Service of the Government. In the case of Bombay and Madras it was increased to not less than 8 and not more than 20.

Although the Act introduced a kind of elective principle, but it was the Governor-General who was empowered to invite different bodies in India to elect, select or delegate their representatives as non-official members in the Central Legislative Council.

Apart from the Provinces one member was appointed on the recommendation of the Calcutta Chamber of Commerce.

In practice these bodies elected their representatives and forwarded the names. These names were always accepted by the Government. Thus the members were in fact elected representatives.

The idea behind adopting this procedure was to underline that the members occupied seats on the Legislative Council not as representatives of specific bodies but as nominees of the Governor-General.

The rest were nominated non-official members. The official members together with the ex-officio members constituted an official majority.

Similar changes were introduced in the composition of provincial Legislative Councils. In the entire provinces official majority was maintained.

The Act of 1892 also provided for discussion of legislative proposals including Budget. Although Financial Statement was presented by the Government as an unalterable document, the Act however, provided for discussion by the members on Annual Financial Statement.

This however allowed the Members to present their observations on the Budget and possibly had the chance to influence the Budget of subsequent years.

In the case of Provinces the discussion was limited to those branches of revenue and expenditure which were under the control of Provincial Governments.

Further the Act allowed the members to put questions on internal matters, but supplementary questions were not allowed.

The Indian Council Act of 1892 gave the Indians an opportunity to participate in the legislative process and understand the rules and procedures associated with the same.