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 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 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 seven were rulers of princely states. The others were lawyers, magistrates, journalists and merchants. The participation of the Indian members in the council meetings was negligible.
Raja Sir Deo Narayan Singh of Benaras (Jan 1862-1866)
Narendra Singh, Maharaja of Patiala (Jan 1862-1864)
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.
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:
Under the Government of India Act 1920, 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.