The Charter of 1813 and its Effects in Present-Day India


This research was written and submitted by BRIAN DUBE, a 2nd-year student in Ba LLB at Lovely Professional University, Punjab. The topic under scrutiny is THE CHARTER ACT OF 1813 and its effect on current affairs in India.


The Charter Act of 1813 was introduced by Lord Dalhousie. The Act, also known as the East India Act of 1813 was one of the acts passed by the British Crown during its reign in India through particular individuals as well as the East India Company. The Charter act of 1813 extended the reign of the Company for 20 more years. The act allowed the company to make regulations for governance and allow it to settle disputes in the territories and establish the administration of justice1. The act brought various accounts which mostly are still applicable in the present day, some of which include trade, education, and religion.


The Act came into force when Napoleon Bonaparte had just passed the Continental System (1806). The Continental System restricted all countries which were under the control of France from trading with Britain. This became a huge strain on the British merchants who benefitted from trading with the French colonies. On the Indian side, the East India Company which was fully fleshed and productive was enjoying its monopoly of trade with India and China. Facing trade sanctions from Napoleon, the British Crown came up with the second Charter Act which had the purpose of putting an end to the monopoly of trade by the East India Company which would liberate the British merchants to trade in India and keep the control of India under British rule.


The Charter Act of 1813 came into force after the Charter Act of 1793. The charter of 1793 monopolized the trade of India with the East India Company only, meaning that the EIC was the only one with the right to control, and trade with India. This made the East India Company famous and powerful in the 17th century. The 1793 Act also rested supreme powers on the Governor General and lesser powers on the subordinate Generals of the other presidencies. The Governor General had the authority to take over any other presidency whenever he wanted, and he also had the power to appoint and dismiss any official. It can be justified that, the powers which the Governor-General exercised are similar to those which the President holds.


The main feature of the Charter Act of 1813 was to extend the control of the East India Company over the territories in India for another 2 decades. This was a strategy that the British Parliament used to enforce its reign on Indian territories which were under British control. According to Section 66 of the Charter Act of 1813, every regulation made by the governments in India, annually, was subject to be laid down before the Parliament of Britain. (i)

Moreover, the monopoly of the East India Company came to an end after the enactment of the Act. This was due to the strain on British trade because of the Continental System imposed by Napoleon Bonaparte. The loss of control of trade was the first blow that later caused the downfall of the Company while uplifting the British Parliament rule. The only trade that the East India Company was left with, was the tea trade with China. The permitting of other British traders in India resulted in more exploitation of Indians by the British. Moreover, the spreading of more tradesmen from Britain, resulted in conflict with the craftsmen in India because it was difficult to compete with the machine-made products from Britain.

However, the British began to build industries and other infrastructure in India, which was an advantage in matters of development of India, making India marketable. The 1813 Charter Act, also gave way to the sovereign possession or control of the East India Company by the British Parliament. This was done through the regulations and funding of the East India Company when it became bankrupt. This foreshadowed the downfall of the East India Company and gave a glimpse of the control of the British Crown through its Parliament and other means.

Furthermore, the Charter Act of 1813 also gave birth to the educational system of India. This was instilled when British intellects were permitted to establish their schools in India. To fuel the establishment of schools, the British Parliament sponsored one lakh rupees in advance for the advancement of the educational system in India. Therefore, in as much as the torturous reign of the British can be highly criticized, this factor turned out to be the backbone of the emancipation of Indian prolific figures like Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi also known as Mahatma Gandhi, who was an Indian barrister in law and an anti-colonialist. In the present day, education is one of the qualities of a successful man. Therefore, one can, but argue that this was one of the most important provisions made by the British Crown as evidenced by the enactment of the Right to Education as a fundamental right in the Constitution of India. (ii)

Moreover, it is because of the Charter Act of 1813, that Christianity and Missionaries got access to India. For instance, missionaries like Charles Grant got the opportunity to spread Christianity and propagate the religion. Grant was an evangelist who found his way to politics in India. He was a member of parliament from 1802-1818, and, during his time in the post, he tried to abolish slavery and the slave trade, as well as emancipating other evangelists. He established one of his missionary churches in Calcutta. (iii)


The enactment of the Charter Act of 1813 was “a necessary evil”. This is because, in as much as the act brought disaster to the craftsmen in India as well as become the slow poison to the EIC, it brought future irreplaceable provisions like education and religion. These are the positive aspects found in an act that brought downfall to others while lifting some. Therefore, it was necessary and a need to have the act despite its negative effects.


i. 53 George III, c, 155: Public Act, 1813.
ii. The Constitution (Eighty-sixth Amendment) Act, 2002, sec. 2.
iii. Allan K. Davidson, “Grant, Charles,” in Biographical Dictionary of Christian Missions, ed. Gerald H. Anderson (New York: Macmillan Reference USA, 1998), 256.


Leave a Comment