The Indian Councils Act 1861 was an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom that transformed the Viceroy of India’s executive council into a cabinet run on the portfolio system.

This cabinet had six “ordinary members” who each took charge of a separate department in Calcutta’s government: home, revenue, military, law, finance, and (after 1874) public works.

The military Commander-in-Chief sat in with the council as an extraordinary member.

The Executive Council was enlarged by the addition of 5th member as Jurist.

The Viceroy was allowed to overrule the council on affairs if he deemed it necessary – as was the case in 1879, during the tenure of Lord Lytton.

The Viceroy was allowed to issue ordinances when the Legislative Council is not in session.

This type of Ordinances would last for Six Months.

The 1861 Act restored the legislative power taken away by the Charter Act of 1833.

The legislative council at Calcutta was given extensive authority to pass laws for British India as a whole, while the legislative councils at Bombay and Madras were given the power to make laws for the “Peace and good Government” of their respective presidencies.

The Governor-General was given the power to create new provinces for legislative purposes. He also could appoint Lt. Governors for the same.

However, from India’s point of view, the act did little to improve the influence of Indians in the legislative council. The role of the council was limited to advise. No financial discussion could take place.


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