Indian Council Act 1892

The Indian Council Act, 1861 had many shortcomings. The nationalist feeling was growing in the late 19th century among the educated middle class. The Congress party, formed in 1885, started demanding among other things, expansion and Indianization of legislative council. The Congress leaders also demanded right to ask question in the legislative council on any subject and right of discussion on Budget. Lord Dufferin, the Governor-General of India between 1884-1888, wanted to give more seats to western-educated Indians than the traditional, orthodox Indian rulers. He appointed a committee headed by Sir John Chenny. The committee recommended that the legislative council should be developed as ‘mini parliament’. The Congress party regularly passed resolutions in its annual session to restructure the legislative council. The leading newspapers also raised similar demands. Lord Dufferin sent a suggestion, based on Chenny committee’s report, to home Government. The British Government, on Dufferin’s suggestion, passed Indian Council Act, 1892.

Provisions of Indian Council Act, 1892

1. Central legislative council was expanded. The number of additional members in central legislative council was increased to a minimum of 10 and maximum of 16; for Madras and Bombay, the minimum was 10 and maximum was 20; for Bengal, the maximum was 20 whereas for North west province (UP) the maximum was 15.

2. The Council was to have three types of members:
(a) Official members
(b) Non-official members who were nominated
(c) Non-official members who were nominated on the recommendation of non-official members of the four provincial legislature of Madras, Bombay, Bengal and North West province (UP) and one by the associated chamber of commerce.

The Provincial Legislature, Municipalities, District Boards, universities, and the chamber of commerce were empowered to elect members. Thus, the principle of election, though indirect, was introduced through Indian Council Act, 1892.

3. The members of legislative council could ask questions from Executive on public interest after giving six-day notice and were allowed to discuss the Budget. But we’re not allowed to discuss an answer given by the Executive. The speaker was empowered to reject the demand of asking question, to any member, without giving any reason.

4. The Viceroy was empowered to make rules for the nomination of members, but he had to seek provision from the Secretary of State.

Though the Indian Council Act, 1892 was an expansion of Indian Council Act, 1861, it failed to satisfy the rising educated Indian class. The executive body was not answerable before the legislative council. The members of legislative council were not allowed to ‘vote’ on Budget, they could only ask question on it. They were not even allowed to ask question on the answer given by the executive. The Indians had to wait another seventeen years for any constitutional pakage.