Pitt’s India Act 1784

The East India Company Act 1784 is also known as Pitt’s India Act, was an Act of the Parliament of Great Britain.

The Act provided for not more than six Privy Counsellors, including a Secretary of State and the Chancellor of the Exchequer to be appointed “Commissioners for the Affairs of India”.

Of these, not fewer than three formed a Board to execute the powers under the Act.

The Board was presided over by the president, who soon effectively became the minister for the affairs of the East India Company.

The Act stated that the Board would henceforth “superintend, direct and control” the government of the Company’s possessions, in effect controlling the acts and operations relating to the civil, military and revenues of the Company.

It distinguished between the commercial and political functions of the Company.

It allowed the Court of Directors to manage the commercial affairs but created a new body called Board of Control to manage the political affairs.

Thus, it established a system of double government.

It empowered the Board of Control to supervise and direct all operations of the civil and military government or revenues of the British possessions in India.

The governing council of the Company was reduced to three members.

The governors of Bombay and Madras were also deprived of their independence.

The governor-general was given greater powers in matters of war, revenue and diplomacy.

By a supplementary act passed in 1786 Lord Cornwallis was appointed as the 2nd governor-general of Bengal, and he then became the effective ruler of British India under the authority of the Board of Control and the Court of Directors.

The constitution set up by Pitt’s India Act 1784 did not undergo any major changes until the end of the company’s rule in India in 1858.

The act was significant for two reasons:

The companies territories in India were for the first time called the ‘British possessions in India.

The British Government was given supreme control over the Company’s affairs and it’s administration in India.


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