Regulating Act of 1773 – UPSC Preparation (History)

The regulating Act of 1773 was passed by the British Parliament due to the misgovernment by the British East India government that introduced a situation of bankruptcy and the government had to interfere with the affairs of the company.

Background of Regulating Act of 1773

The East India company was a commercial company that was given monopoly of all trade with the East. The company started by being a private trading company but later on it took over the administration of Bengal, Bihar and Orissa. The Company also received some gifts from Indian princes on the condition of agreeing to safeguard them from foreign aggression.

This monopolistic power gave rise to some problems as the company officials got involved in activities which had nothing to do with business like interfering in the internal affairs of Indian kingdoms. The British Parliament realized that such actions would put them in conflict with other European powers which could lead to war and the British Parliament feared war as they knew that their fighting capabilities were low at that time due to which they utilized this regulative act to control the powers of East India Company.

Provisions of the Regulating Act

The Regulating Act of 1773 was drafted by the British parliament to bring about certain changes in the functioning of East India Company. The company had been formed under a Royal Charter and was given administrative and military power and also enjoyed many privileges at that time. However, as the company’s territories had grown immensely, they needed a central authority to maintain law and order. This need led to the enactment of the Regulating Act.

The act provided for the appointment of a Governor-General along with four Councillors in the Presidency of Fort William (Calcutta), jointly called the Governor-General in Council.

As per this, Warren Hastings was appointed as the Governor-General of the Presidency of Fort William.

The Governors in Councils at Madras and Bombay were brought under the control of Bengal, especially in matters of foreign policy. Now, they could not wage war against Indian states without Bengal’s approval.

The company directors were elected for a period of five years and one-fourth of them were to retire every year. Also, they could not be re-elected.

The company directors were directed to make public all correspondence on revenue, civil and military matters with Indian authorities before the British authorities.

A Supreme Court of Judicature was established at Calcutta with Sir Elijah Impey as the first Chief Justice. Judges were to come from England. It had civil and criminal jurisdiction over the British subjects and not Indian natives.

Defects of Regulating Act 1773

The major drawbacks of The Regulating Act of 1773 are stated below:

The Governor-General had no veto power.

It did not address the concerns of the Indian population who were paying revenue to the company.

It did not stop corruption among the company officials.

The Supreme Court’s powers were not well-defined.

The parliamentary control that was sought in the activities of the company proved to be ineffective as there was no mechanism to study the reports sent by the Governor-General in Council.