The advent of the British in India begins with Queen Elizabeth’s Charter of the year sixteen hundred to some merchants of London who formed the East India Company to trade with the East Indies. As a consequence of this Charter the British East India Company set up trading establishments on the east and west coasts of India and in Bengal, called factories. Here in this article we are giving you list and details of those Charters.
Charter of 1600
The first Charter of 1600 was mainly designed for trade in order to meet competition with the Portuguese and the Dutch. Charter of 1600 laid the foundations for British Government in India, although at that time no one in England dreamed for the establishment of British rule in India. However, this Charter contained all the provisions necessary for the constitution of a government according to law in any territory. This Charter granted permit to traffic and use the trade of merchandise and to assemble themselves in any convenient place, to make reasonable laws and ordinances for the good government of the East India Company. The factories, on the other hand, were given power to make reasonable laws and impose punishments.
Charter of 1661
The second Charter of 1661 gave East India Company the power to coin money, to administer justice and to punish the interlopers. It also empowered the Company to constitute Governor’s council and appoint other officers for their government. The Governor and councils were authorised to administer justice in all causes, civil as well as criminal, according to the laws of the kingdom and to execute judgment accordingly. Charter of 1661 gave the East India Company power to make peace or war with non-Christians, erect fortifications, and seize interlopers. Thus it will be seen that various aspects of sovereignty were conferred by the first Charter of sixteen hundred and they were further extended by the Charter of 1661.
Charter of 1669, Territorial Sovereignty
For the first time the Charter of 1669 gave territorial sovereignty to the East India Company by granting to it the port of Bombay. It also enlarged its administrative, judicial and other governmental powers. The East India Company was also invested with Civil and Military Government.
Charter of 1677, 1683, 1687
The Charter of 1677 empowered the Company to establish a mint at Bombay for coining money, Indian rupees. The Charter 1683 gave the company full powers with respect to declaring wars and making peace with heathen nation (the nation where people do not follow Christianity) and the king established a Court of Justice with maritime jurisdiction. The Courts were empowered to “adjudge and determine cases according to the rules of equity and good conscience and the laws and customs of Merchants.”
The Charter of 1687 invested the East India Company with authority to establish a municipality and a Mayor’s Court at Madras. The court of Record with power to try civil and criminal cases was also established. Up to 1765 a number of other charters were granted to the East India Company which considerably extended its power. It established Municipality in Bombay and Calcutta and empowered them to establish Courts of Requests. The East India Company was given also power to cede territories and create probate and testamentary jurisdiction.
Cease of Royal Charter
The affairs of the company in England as well as in India were governed by the Charters up to 1773. The Company’s Governors and Agents in India administered the Company’s affairs as well as the territorial Governments of India according to rules of law and constitution as provided in these charters. It was the step on the Indian soil for the creation of a constitutional Government although in a very small strip of the territory. After 1683 the authority of the Crown to give charters and create monopoly was challenged in England by the People and the Parliament and on January, 1964, the Parliament had resolved that all subjects of England have equal rights to trade with the East Indies unless prohibited by the Act of Parliament. With the emergence of the supremacy of the Parliament after the Glorious Revolution of 1668 in England, the system of granting Royal Charter by the Crown ceased, and henceforth, the Parliament itself assumed that power.