Government of India Act of 1858

This significant Act was enacted in the wake of the Revolt of 1857 also known as the First War of Independence or the ‘sepoy mutiny’. The act known as the Act for the Good Government of India, abolished the East India Company, and transferred the powers of Government, territories and revenues to the British Crown.

The features of Government of India Act of 1858 were as follows:

  1. It provided that India, henceforth, was to be governed by, and in the name of, Her Majesty. It changed the designation of the Governor-General of India to that of Viceroy of India. He (Viceroy) was the direct representative of the British Crown in India. Lord Canning, thus, became the first Viceroy of India.
  2. It ended the system of double Government by abolishing the Board of Control and Court of Directors.
  3. It created a new office, Secretary of State for India, vested with complete authority and control over Indian administration. The secretary of state was a member of the British Cabinet and was responsible ultimately to the British Parliament.
  4. It established a 15-member council of India to assist the Secretary of State for India. The council was an advisory body. The secretary of state was made the Chairman of the council.
  5. It constituted the Secretary of State-in Council as a body corporate, capable of suing and being sued in India and in England.
‘The Act of 1858 was, however, largely confined to the improvement of the administrative machinery by which the Indian Government was to be supervised and controlled in England. It did not alter in any substantial way the system of Government that prevailed in India4 .’

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