Regulating Act of 1773

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					The Regulating Act 1773

By 1773, East India Company of Britain was facing terrible financial straits. The company had a great
significance to Britain as it was doing monopoly business in India and east and many influential people
of Britain were attached with the company as shareholders. The company paid four hundred thousand
pounds annually to British Government so that their monopoly was maintained. But the time came when
the company was unable to meet its commitments to the government because of the loss of tea sales to
America since the year 1768. About eighty five percent of the tea sold to America was smuggled tea
from Holland. The East India Company owed money both to the Government and Bank of England.
Fifteen million lbs of tea was being wasted in the British warehouse and more tea was on the way from
India. There were also some other reasons behind the decision of undertaking Regulating Act of 1773.

The conditions that persisted on the region of Bengal, Bihar and Orissa reflected the irresponsibility of
the East India Company since it acquired the Diwani and the Nizamat. After these incidences British
Parliament was convinced of the incompetence of the Company in any given circumstances and settled
to undertake the Regulating Act.

The conditions can be narrated in a more detailed way-

established its military domination in Bengal, Bihar and Orissa. These areas were acquired without any
proper law for the greed for wealth of Company`s employees. The company`s servants were totally
corrupted and exploited the common people so that they could gather much wealth in order to return
quickly to England. After returning to England the Employees of East India Company took part in politics
and bought the seats in the House of Commons with the huge wealth they had accumulated in India.
They also purchased the share of the company and tried to become influential in political world. This
uncouth display of wealth caused them to earn the nickname `Nabobs`.

and territorial power instead of being a mere commercial farm. The British politicians understood that it
should not be wise to leave the East India Company beyond any Parliamentary control. It was becoming
more dangerous as the members of the Company had no training or experience in handling Politics as
they were specialized in commerce. This was supported by the mess they created in the Bengal and its
surrounding region. Thus public opinion in England was in the favor of interference of British Parliament
in company`s affair.

Company itself was suffering from monitory loss. The directors of the Company voted for increased
profits to shareholders but the Company had to borrow a loan from the British Parliament to meet the
increasing demand for Company shares. The company was already committed to pay the British
Treasury four hundred thousand pounds annually as `Share in the Indian Spoil`. The incidence of
Bengal famine and other things already reached the British Parliament and granting the loan was
difficult without supporting the requirement of the loan with proper reason.

report the deficiencies in the Management of East Indian Company in the Indian region. The report was
condemning in all the aspects and it became obvious that company could no longer be an independent
body and must be subdued to the parliament.

Lord North decided to overtake the management of the East India Company with the Regulating Act.
This was the first incidence of British Government interference in India. The Act set up such a system
that the Government supervised or regulated East India Company but did not undertake the whole

The East India Company was basically a trading farm that made business over a vast area of India but
also maintained an army to protect its interests. North decided to start Governmental control, as East
India Company had no experience in ruling and it conquered few areas. East India Company had a very
powerful lobby in Parliament in spite of the financial crises of the Company. The Shareholders along
with this lobby of Parliament opposed the act.

However, British Parliament passed the Regulating act of 1773. The Government AT Calcutta was
reorganized and Supreme Court was established in Calcutta. The Regulating Act of 1773 was the first
instance where Parliamentary Acts deviated from its royal charters. The Regulating Act, 1773 might
have various defects but it was the turning point in the Constitutional history of India as it protested
against the putrefaction of East India Company.

The Regulating Act, 1773 said that:

Council, which consists of four Councilors with the general democratic rule that the Governor General
would consider decision of the majority of the Councilors.

Monson, Richard Barwell and Philip Francis shall be the first four Councilors.

                                                                                a Chief Justice and three
subordinate judges at Fort William. The Court`s jurisdiction shall be applied to all British subjects
residing in the subdivision of Bengal and to their native servants.

                                                             rsons out of its revenue in the rate of : the
Governor General twenty five thousand sterling, Councilors ten thousand sterling each, Chief justice
eight thousand sterling and the judges six thousand sterling a year.

The fifth, sixth and seventh sections of the act state that: The Governor General, Councilors,
Judges, Persons from military and civil establishments, collectors and other district officials are refrained
from taking gifts, present or reward and any monetary advantages from the Indian kings, princes,
zamindars or any other native subjects.

The provision of the Regulating Act of 1773 clearly indicates that it was enacted to stop the malpractice
of law and to control corruption among Company officials. However, it failed to stop the corruption and
degeneracy became a common practice for all officials, from the top level to the lowest subordinate.
The major charges were brought against the first Governor General, Warren Hastings and he was
impeached in the trial for corruption. Infact the whole council was divided into two factions based on the
corruptions- the Hastings Group and the Francis Group. They fought against each other on the issues
of corruption charges alleged on them. Consequently, Pitt`s India act, 1784 was passed to prevent
corruption and an uncorrupted person, Lord Cornwallis, was appointed in order to bring a corruption
free environment in the company.

The term civil code is used to cover the entire body of laws governing rights relating to property and
otherwise in personal matters like marriage, divorce, maintenance, adoption and inheritance.
As things stand, there are different laws governing these aspects for different communities in India.
Thus, the laws governing inheritance or divorce among Hindus would be different from those
pertaining to Muslims or Christians and so on.
The demand for a uniform civil code essentially means unifying all these ?personal laws? to have
one set of secular laws dealing with these aspects that will apply to all citizens of India irrespective
of the community they belong to. Though the exact contours of such a uniform code have not been
spelt out, it should presumably incorporate the most modern and progressive aspects of all existing
personal laws while discarding those which are retrograde.
What does the Indian Constitution have to say on the subject?
Article 44, which is one of the ?directive principles? laid down in the Constitution says: ?The State
shall endeavour to secure for the citizens a uniform civil code throughout the territory of India.? As
Article 37 of the Constitution itself makes clear, the directive principles ?shall not be enforceable by
any court?. Nevertheless, they are ?fundamental in the governance of the country?.
What has the Supreme Court said on the issue?
Very recently, while hearing a case pertaining to whether a Christian has the right to bequeath
property to a charity, the court regretted the fact that the state had not yet implemented a uniform
civil code. This is not the first time that the apex court has expressed itself in favour of a uniform civil
code or taken a dim view of the government?s and legislature?s inability to bring it into being. There
have been other occasions ? like during the Shah Bano case and later in the Sarla Mudgal case ?
where too the apex court has come out strongly in favour of the enactment of a uniform civil code.
However, none of these comments are binding on the executive or the legislature and do not
amount to orders. At best, they exert some moral pressure on the Indian state to move towards
formulating a uniform civil code.
Would a uniform code affect the personal laws of only one community?
Not at all. The perception that a uniform civil code would necessitate changes in only Muslim
personal law is quite incorrect. As women?s organisations and others have repeatedly pointed out,
personal laws governing different communities in India have a common feature ? they are all
For instance, the law pertaining to succession among Hindus is unequal in the way it treats men and
women. A truly modern, secular, non-discriminatory and progressive code would, therefore, mean
changes in all personal laws. The concept of the ?Hindu undivided family?, at least insofar as it
pertains to succession, would also obviously have to undergo a change under a uniform civil code.
Similarly, Muslim, Christian and other personal laws too would have to change. This also explains
why historically changes in personal law have been resisted not just by one community, but by the
ruling orthodoxy in all of them.
What had prevented a uniform civil code from coming into being?
Since it involves a change in laws, an obvious prerequisite is sufficient support for the move within
Parliament. The reason this has been difficult to achieve has been because most parties have held
the view that the reform of laws pertaining to the personal domain is better done by pressure for
such change from within communities rather than as an imposition from above. Further, for historical
reasons, the demand for a uniform civil code has acquired communal overtones which have
overshadowed the innate merits of the proposal.
To put the delay in perspective, however, it should be added that Article 44 of the Constitution is by
no means the only directive principle to have not been implemented more than half a century after it
was laid down. Most directive principles continue to remain pious doctrines rather than the law of the

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