This article explains in detail the Regulating Act of 1773, its advantages and disadvantages.

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The Regulating Act of 1773

The Regulating Act of 1773 was the first honest and well-meant attempt of the British Parliament to provide Parliamentary control over the company affairs in India and to introduce a better system of governance of the East India Company in India.

Also, the Regulating Act of 1773 is very important from the historical point of view. The act completely changed the structure of the East India Company in India. It gave the British Parliament the power to control over its workings.

Though, the Act contained serious shortfalls. But it marked the beginning of a written constitution citing the rights of the Parliament to regulate the workings of the company in India. The Act improved its previous rules and regulations of the East India Company. It also changed its administrative structure, making it dependent upon the Parliament.

Further, the Act replaced the one-man rule by a collegiate rule. It set up a system of administration. The Act attempts to give a definite form to the previous arbitrary rulership of the company. It left the details and devices of the administration of India to the company. But of course with the approval of the Home Government till 1858.

Under the control of the British Parliament, the company tries to organize an honest and efficient authority in India. Especially in Bengal, Madras, and Bombay. Besides, it set up a Supreme Court of Judicature at Calcutta to provide safeguards against the abuse of powers by the servants of the company.

Advantages of the Act

The Regulating Act of 1773 reduced the influence of the Court of Proprietors in England by raising the qualification of the Court of Proprietors in England for the election of members of the Board of Directors in India. They raised the Proprietors from a share of 500 pounds to 1000 pounds, having at least one-year standing. Hitherto, all persons holding shares Worth of 500 pounds for a period of six months can cast their vote.

Also, it extends the term of the Board of Directors from one year to four years. Several members of the Board of Directors were fixed to 24 members. Also, ¼ of its members retiring every year to ensure its continuity. The Act made the Board of Directors mandatory to lay all correspondences from India dealing revenue before the Treasury of the Home Government.

Similarly, it also places all matters relating to civil and military administrations before the Secretary of State of England. The act thus conferred upon the British Cabinet the right to legislate. Also, the right to control the internal affairs of the East India Company in India.

The Act raised the official status of the Governor of Bengal and designated him (Warren Hastings) as the Governor-General of Bengal with a Council of four members appointed by the Parliament for a term of 5 years. It increases the salaries of the servants of the company. Also, it gave the Governor-General in Council the authority to regulate civil and military administrations of the Presidency of Fort William (Bengal).

It also vested the management of the new territories and revenues from Bengal, Bihar, and Orissa with the Council. Besides, the Governor-General in Council has the power to supervise over the workings of the Presidencies of Bombay and Madras. Also, to suspend them.

Further, the Act set up a Supreme Court of Judicature which enjoyed both original and appellate jurisdiction. The Supreme Court consists of a Chief Justice and three puisne judges to hold office during the pleasure of the Crown. To be eligible for appointment as the Judge, a person has to be a barrister of England and Ireland with not less than five years standing. The Supreme Court was authorized to try civil, criminal, ecclesiastical and admiralty cases of all servants of the company. The company’s subjects in Bengal could seek redress from the court against oppression by the company.

The act put an end to the bad practice of receiving presents and bribes by the company’s servants. Also the Act made the violators liable to pay double and transportation to England. It set up a system leaving the details of the administration of India to the company with the approval of the Home Government till 1858.

Also, the Act brought changes in the constitution and structure of the East India Company in India. It raised the official status of the Governor of Bengal to the rank of the Governor-General of Bengal. It entrusted the Governor-General and his Council of four members commonly known as the Governor-General in Council, with the authority to regulate the civil and military administration of the Presidencies of the Fort William in Bengal.

Disadvantages of the Act

PE Roberts observes The Regulating Act as “The Act did not clearly confer upon the Governor-General his due power to act. He was not given powers to override his Council. Besides, it did not clearly define the relationship between the Supreme-Court and the Governor-General in Council. Similarly, the act did not define the relationship between the Supreme Court and the existing courts of the company”. Hence, the Act resulted in endless complicacy between the two judicial authorities. Also, it did not define the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court.

Further, it was not clear whether the law of the defendant or that of the plaintiff was to be applied in the case of two religious communities. Since the Judges were the Europeans, they indiscriminately applied the English Laws and did not consider the custom, culture, and laws of the land. The supervision over the subordinate Presidencies of Calcutta, Bombay, and Madras became an extremely difficult task. Although the Governor-General of Bengal was given the power of control over the subordinate presidencies, the act permitted them to act on their own way in times of emergency. It thus created many difficulties in Anglo-Indian relations.

Whatsoever the defects of the Regulating Act, it was the first attempt of the British Parliament to regulate and control the affairs of the East India Company in India. Also, the Act introduces a better system of governance. Besides, it marked the beginning of a written constitution for the workings of the company in India. It changes its previous rules and changes its administrative structure making it fully dependent upon the British Parliament.

Source: B.Sm. Sarma & B.R. Sharma

History of Modern India, Book

Note: There are some changes in the Length and Text of the Article.

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