Amending Act of 1781

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Last updated on October 7, 2022

The Amending Act of 1781, was passed by the British Parliament to remove the problems and flaws in the Regulating Act, 1773. The British Parliament became aware of the conflicts happening between the Governor-General, his council and the Supreme Court due to overlapping jurisdiction of powers. They also came to know about the disregard of the orders of the Governor-General and independent activities of the Bombay and Madras governors. To put an end to such problems, 2 committees were established, which were:-

  1. Select committee: It was to devise or formulate rules for regulating the future relations between the Governor General’s council and the Supreme Court.
  2. Secrets committee: It was asked to look into the causes of the 2nd Mysore war and also report about the existing situations of the British territory in the east.

These committee submitted their report following which the Amending Act of 1781 was passed.

The Major Provision of the Amending Act of 1781:

  • The Governor General and the Council of Bengal were not to be subject jointly or severely to the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court which was at Fort William, Calcutta.
  • The revenue collector were exempted from jurisdiction of the Supreme Court in all matters relating to revenue collection and the Supreme Court could not try a person merely for a reason that he was a landlord or a farmer who paid rent.
  • All judicial officers were exempted from the jurisdiction of the court. The power of the Supreme Court to decide the matter of British subject was maintained by this act.
  • It also recognized the Appellate jurisdiction of Governor General’s council.
  • The Supreme Court was also given to decide the cases of inhabitants of Calcutta except cases involving inheritance, rent, contract as in such cases it was largely the personal law of Hindu and the Muslim which was applied.
  • The procedure of the Supreme Court was specified and was to be in accordance with Indian religious custom specially in matter of issuing summons.
  • The Governor General was also given the power to frame regulations for the provincial court and also for the councils and it was not necessary to be registered in the Supreme Court.
  • The Supreme Court was also given the power to try subjects and to try the Indians who were employed by East India Company.
  • The Governor General and the council has 2 kinds of legislative powers now, 1 given by regulating act and second was obtained by amending act of 1781.

Significance of the Amending Act of 1781

  • The Amending Act of 1781 strengthened the position of the Governor General.
  • It also reduced the number of disputes between the governor general and the Supreme Court.
  • The defects in the procedure of the Supreme Court were removed.
  • It laid emphasis on importance of regular collection of revenue.
  • The changes which were brought about in the Supreme Court especially in functioning and procedure, were so successful that similar changes were then brought about in the Courts at Bombay and Madras.
  • The East India Company under this Act continued to function for a while.

Over the time, the British parliament felt it was necessary to increase its control over the East India Company. A large number of merchants in England, also demanded reforms in the company’s administration. This was largely because the American war of Independence had started, and the British Trade had received major losses due to it. British Trade with America had suffered and these losses could be compensated only by trading with India. Merchants, hence demanded changes in the company’s administration. Also Constitutional crisis arose in England. The House of commons received complaints against Warren Hastings and so they recalled him back to England. Proprietors of company refused to comply with these orders as they believed Warren Hastings was doing a very good job. As a result, the British Parliament felt that it was necessary to bring the company under Direct control of the Parliament.

Therefore, a bill was introduced in the parliament to bring about more changes, which came in the form of the Pitts India Act, 1784, also known as the Act for better Governance in India.

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