Puneet Varma (Editor)

Viceroy's Executive Council

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The Viceroy's Executive Council was the cabinet of the government of British India headed by the Viceroy of India. It was transformed from an advisory council into a cabinet run by the portfolio system by the Indian Councils Act 1861.



The Government of India Act 1858 transferred the power of the East India Company to the British Crown which was empowered to appoint a Viceroy and Governor-General of India to head the government in India. The advisory council of the Governor-General was based in the capital Calcutta and consisted of four members, three of which were appointed by the Secretary of State for India and one by the Sovereign.

The Indian Councils Act 1861 transformed the Viceroy of India's executive council into a cabinet run on the portfolio system. Three members were to be appointed by the Secretary of State for India, and two by the Sovereign. The five ordinary members took charge of a separate department: home, revenue, military, law and finance. The military Commander-in-Chief sat in with the council as an extraordinary member. The Viceroy was allowed, under the provisions of the Act, to overrule the council on affairs if he deemed it necessary. In 1869, the power to appoint all five members was passed to the Crown and in 1874, a new member was added to be in charge of public works.

The Indian Councils Act 1909 empowered the Governor General to nominate one Indian member to the Executive Council leading to the appointment of Satyendra Prasanno Sinha as the first Indian member. The Government of India Act 1919 increased the number of Indians in the council to three.

Indians in the Council (1909–1940)

  • Law Members: Satyendra Prasanno Sinha (1909–1914), P. S. Sivaswami Iyer (1912–1917), Syed Ali Imam, Muhammad Shafi (1924–1928), Tej Bahadur Sapru (1920–1923), Satish Ranjan Das, Brojendra Mitter (1931–1934), Nripendra Nath Sircar (1934–1939), Bepin Behary Ghose (1933), Nalini Ranjan Chatterjee
  • C. Sankaran Nair (1915–1919): Education
  • Muhammad Shafi: Education (1919–1924)
  • B. N. Sarma (1920–1925): Revenue and Agriculture
  • Bhupendra Nath Mitra: Industries and Labour
  • Narasimha Chintaman Kelkar (1924–1929)
  • Muhammad Habibullah (1925–1930): Education, Health and Lands
  • Fazl-i-Hussain (1930–1935)
  • C. P. Ramaswami Iyer: Law (1931–1932), Commerce (1932), Information (1942)
  • Kurma Venkata Reddy Naidu (1934–1937)
  • Muhammad Zafarullah Khan (1935–1941): Commerce (–1939), Law (1939–), Railway, Industries and Labour, and War Supply
  • Arcot Ramasamy Mudaliar: Commerce (1939–1941), Supply (1943)
  • Kunwar Sir Jagdish Prasad: Health, Education and Lands
  • Girija Shankar Bajpai (1940): Health, Education
  • Attaullah Tarar (1931–1941 ?)
  • Expansion

    On 8 August 1940, the Viceroy Lord Linlithgow made a proposal called the August Offer which expanded the Executive Council to include more Indians.

    The council now consisted of:

    Interim Government

    As per the Cabinet Mission Plan, the Executive Council was expanded to consist of only Indian members except the Viceroy and the Commander-in-Chief. This formed the Interim Government of India.


    Viceroy's Executive Council Wikipedia