Imperial Legislative Council

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Imperial Legislative Council
Houses Council of State
Legislative Assembly
Term limits
Council of State 5 years
Legislative Assembly 3 years
Founded 1861 (1861)
Disbanded 14 August 1947 (14 August 1947)
Preceded by Governor-General's Council
Succeeded by Constituent Assembly of India
President of the Assembly

The Imperial Legislative Council was a legislature for British India from 1861 to 1947. It succeeded the Council of the Governor-General of India, and was succeeded by the Constituent Assembly of India and the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan.

During the rule of the East India Company, the council of the Governor-General of India had both executive and legislative responsibilities. The council had four members of the Council elected by the Court of Directors. The first three members were permitted to participate on all occasions, but the fourth member was only allowed to sit and vote when legislation was being debated. In 1858, the British Crown took over the administration from the East India Company. The council was transformed into the Imperial Legislative Council, and the Court of Directors of the Company which had the power to elect members of the Governor-General's Council ceased to have this power. Instead, the one member who had a vote only on legislative questions came to be appointed by the Sovereign, and the other three members by the Secretary of State for India.


The Regulating Act of 1773 limited the influence of the Governor-General of India and established the Council of Four, elected by the East India Company's Court of Directors. Pitt's India Act of 1784 reduced the membership to three, and also established the India Board.

1861 to 1892

The Indian Councils Act 1861 made several changes to the Council's composition. The council was now called the Governor-General's Legislative Council or the Imperial Legislative Council. Three members were to be appointed by the Secretary of State for India, and two by the Sovereign. (The power to appoint all five members passed to the Crown in 1869.) The Governor-General was empowered to appoint an additional six to twelve members. The five individuals appointed by the Indian Secretary or Sovereign headed the executive departments, while those appointed by the Governor-General debated and voted on legislation.

Indians in the Council

There were 45 Indians nominated as additional non-official members from 1862 to 1892. Out of these 25 were zamindars and 7 were rulers of princely states. The others were lawyers, magistrates, journalists and merchants.[1][2][3] The participation of the Indian members in the council meetings was negligible.[4][5]

1892 to 1909

The Indian Councils Act 1892 increased the number of legislative members with a minimum of ten and maximum of sixteen members. The Council now had 6 officials, 5 nominated non-officials, 4 nominated by the provincial legislative councils of Bengal Presidency, Bombay Presidency, Madras Presidency and North-Western Provinces and 1 nominated by the chamber of commerce in Calcutta. The members were allowed to ask questions in the Council but not allowed to ask supplementaries or discuss the answer. They were however empowered to discuss the annual financial statement under certain restrictions but could not vote on it.

Indians in the Council


1909 to 1920

The Indian Councils Act 1909 increased the number of members of the Legislative Council to 60, of whom 27 were to be elected. For the first time, Indians were admitted to membership, and there were six Muslim representatives, the first time that such representation had been given to a religious group.

The composition of the Council was as follows:[11]

  • Ex-officio members from the Viceroy's Executive Council (9)
  • Nominated officials (28)
  • Nominated non-officials (5): Indian commercial community (1), Punjab Muslims (1), Punjab Landholders (1), Others (2)
  • Elected from provincial legislatures (27)
    • General (13): Bombay(2), Madras(2), Bengal(2), United Provinces(2), Central Provinces, Assam, Bihar & Orissa, Punjab, Burma
    • Landholders (6): Bombay, Madras, Bengal, United Provinces, Central Provinces, Bihar & Orissa
    • Muslim (6): Bengal (2), Madras, Bombay, United Provinces, Bihar & Orissa
    • Commerce (2): Bengal Chamber of Commerce (1), Bombay Chamber of Commerce

Indians in the Council (1909–20)


Nominated Officials

  • Kiran Chandra De

Nominated Non-Officials


Bihar & Orissa



Central Provinces

East Bengal & Assam

  • General: Kamini Kumar Chanda (1920)[20]
  • Landholders: Pramathanath Roy, Raja of Dighapatia (1911-1915)



United Provinces

1920 to 1947

Under the Government of India Act 1919, the Imperial Legislative Council was converted into a bicameral legislature with the Imperial Legislative Assembly (also known as the Central Legislative Assembly) as the lower house of a bicameral legislature and the Council of State as the upper house, reviewing legislation passed by the Assembly. The Governor-General nonetheless retained significant power over legislation. He could authorise the expenditure of money without the Legislature's consent for "ecclesiastical, political [and] defence" purposes, and for any purpose during "emergencies". He was permitted to veto, or even stop debate on, any bill. If he recommended the passage of a bill, but only one chamber co-operated, he could declare the bill passed over the objections of the other chamber. The Legislature had no authority over foreign affairs and defence. The President of the Council of State was appointed by the Governor-General; the Central Legislative Assembly elected its own President, apart from the first, but the election required the Governor-General's approval.

Under the Indian Independence Act 1947, the Imperial Legislative Council and its houses were dissolved on 14 August 1947 and was replaced by the Constituent Assembly of India and the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan.

See also


  1. Banerjee, Anil Chandra (1984). English Law in India. p. 143.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Chandra, Bipan. India's Struggle for Independence.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Buckland, Charles. Dictionary of Indian Biography.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. Bhattacharya, Sabyasachi. The Financial Foundations of the British Raj. p. 57.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. Kashyap, Subhash. History of the Parliament of India.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. India List and India Office List for 1905. Harrison and Sons, London. 1905. Retrieved 22 August 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. "India- Governor General Council". UK Parliament. Retrieved 21 August 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. Government of India Financial Statement for 1894-95, Finance and Commerce Department.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. Abdul, Latif Sayyid. Addresses Poems and Other Writings. The Government Central Press.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. Mukherji, P. Indian constitutional documents, 1773-1915.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2
  13. The India Office and Burma Office List.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 14.3 14.4 14.5 14.6 14.7 14.8
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 15.3 Rao, C. Hayavando (1915). The Indian Biographical Dictionary. Madras : Pillar. p. 606.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  17. Wikisource:Page:The Indian Biographical Dictionary.djvu/239
  18. Wikisource:Page:The Indian Biographical Dictionary.djvu/375
  19. Brown, Judith M. Gandhi's Rise to Power: Indian Politics 1915-1922. p. 162.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  20. Bakshi, S. R. Punjab Through the Ages. p. 22.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links