This was the last of the series of Charter Acts passed by the British Parliament between 1793 and 1853. It was a significant constitutional landmark.
The features of Charter Act of 1853 were as follows:
- It separated, for the first time, the legislative and executive functions of the Governor-General’s council. It provided for addition of six new members called legislative councillors to the council. In other words, it established a separate Governor-General’s legislative council which came to be known as the Indian (Central) Legislative Council. This legislative wing of the council functioned as a mini-Parliament, adopting the same procedures as the British Parliament. Thus, legislation, for the first time, was treated as a special function of the government, requiring special machinery and special process.
- It introduced an open competition system of selection and recruitment of civil servants. The covenanted civil service was, thus, thrown open to the Indians also. Accordingly, the Macaulay Committee (the Committee on the Indian Civil Service) was appointed in 1854.
- It extended the Company’s rule and allowed it to retain the possession of Indian territories on trust for the British Crown. But, it did not specify any particular period, unlike the previous Charters. This was a clear indication that the Company’s rule could be terminated at any time the Parliament liked.
- It introduced, for the first time, local representation in the Indian (Central) Legislative Council. Of the six new legislative members of the GovernorGeneral’s council, four members were appointed by the local (provincial)governments of Madras, Bombay, Bengal and Agra.