Lord Canning’s rule was a very eventful period. It witnessed radical changes in the British administrative policies in India.
After the suppression of the revolt of 1857 the act of 1858 was passed, which laid down that “India shall be governed by and in the name of the (British) sovereign through one of the principal secretaries (secretary of state for India), assisted by a council of 15 members. “ Thus ended the rule of the East India Company, and the governor general came to be designated as the viceroy. But this act through about a “Formal (rather) than a substantial change”, because the crown had already a steady control over the affairs of the company.
India Councils Act 1861
The act of 1858 did not touch the administrative set-up in India. The major cause of the crisis of 1857-1858 was the want of contact between the rulers and the ruled. Therefore this act provided for the establishment of legislature in the presidencies and extension of viceroy council. This act proved to be a great landmark in the constitutional history of India, because it enabled the viceroy to associate the people of India in the working of the government. But legislative councils (both central and provincial) created by the act could not possibly be called true legislature either in compositions or in functions. These councils could not only be called durbars which Indian rulers had traditionally held in order to sound their subject opinion.
During this period the infamous ‘Doctrine of Lapse ‘was officially withdrawn (1859). The Indian Penal Code (1858), the code of criminal procedure (1859) and the Indian High Court act (1861) were enacted. Income tax was introduced on an experimental basis. Apart from the revolt of 1857, canning ‘s rule had to face troubles in various other parts of the country like the Indigo disputes and riots in Bengal, the White Mutiny and the famine in the north-western provinces.
Keyword: Lord Canning, India Councils Act 1861