Indian Railway History - British Law

Extracts from the "Statute Law Revision - Indian Railways Repeal Proposals", August 2007, published by the Law Commission of the United Kingdom.

The Law Commission published a consultation paper in August 2007, proposing repeal of 38 Acts in the UK statutes relating to the operation of railway companies in British India. The material here is extracted from the Consultation Paper. Web site of the Law Commission

Related pages:
History of railways in India - FAQ Extracts from historical archives

Eastern Bengal Railway

Acts Covered: Eastern Bengal Railway Act 1857 (20 & 21 Vict. c.clix)
Eastern Bengal Railway Act 1866 (29 & 30 Vict. c.cxxxvi)
Eastern Bengal Railway Company Purchase Act 1884 (47 & 48 Vict. c.cciv)

Background

1. The Eastern Bengal Railway Company was established in 1855, and had proposed the introduction of railway transport through eastern Bengal (now Bangladesh) and into Burma (now Myanmar). The proposal was successful, and the company was incorporated by United Kingdom Act of Parliament in August

1857. The company contracted with the Indian government to build and maintain a railway line starting in Kolkata (formerly Calcutta), running to Kushtia (formerly Kooshtee) and then on to Dhaka (formerly Dacca). The Indian government granted a guarantee of a 5% return on the capital invested in the project.

2. Construction work commenced in October 1859, and the first train ran along the line from Sealah to Ranaghat in September 1862. The line was extended considerably over the following years, and a number of additional stations were built along the way.

3. Under the terms of the guarantee agreement, the Indian Government had an option to purchase the company. The option was exercised on 1 July 1884. All pre-existing contracts determined, and the Eastern Bengal Railway became an entirely state-owned enterprise. On 1 April 1887, the Eastern Bengal Railway was amalgamated with the Calcutta and South-eastern Railway - itself a state enterprise from 1868 - and with a number of smaller state-owned railway lines, to become the Eastern Bengal State Railway.[230]

[230] For further information see, Ghosh, S. Railways in India - A Legend (2002) Jogemaya Prokashani, Kolkata, page 114.

4. It is not clear whether this company was formally dissolved, although it is certain that it plays no part in the current development and management of Indian or Bangladeshi Railways. There have been no notices published in the London Gazette to indicate its dissolution. The archives of the Board of Trade hold one record relating to the company but, again, there is nothing to corroborate its dissolution.[231] The railway company is no longer registered at Companies House as an active company, nor are there any indications that it remains in existence.

5. Three Acts relating to the Eastern Bengal Railway Company were promoted over the lifetime of the company: Eastern Bengal Railway Act 1857 Eastern Bengal Railway Act 1866 Eastern Bengal Railway Company Purchase Act 1884. All of these Acts are proposed for repeal in the following note.

The Eastern Bengal Railway Act 1857 (20 & 21 Vict. c.clix) - Purpose

6. In 1855, the Eastern Bengal Railway Company had been formed, by a number of individuals, as an unincorporated entity with the aim of constructing and maintaining a railway running from Calcutta (now Kolkata) to Kooshtee (now Kushtia), and "ultimately" to Dacca (now Dhaka[232]). In addition, the company was to raise capital funding for the project (the interest payments on which, at least for the first construction phase, were to be guaranteed by the East India Company).[233]

7. The company's promoters were of the view that it would be "expedient" for the railway company to be incorporated and to be granted specific powers to further its purposes.[234] To that end, an Act of 1857 was sought and obtained so as to authorise or require the following (in broad terms):

[231] The record resides at the National Archives, reference number BT285/82.

[232] Since Bangladesh achieved its independence, Dhaka has been the republic's capital city.

[233] Preamble to The Eastern Bengal Railway Act 1857 (20 & 21 Vict. c.clix) ("the 1857 Act"), being "An Act for incorporating the Eastern Bengal Railway Company, and for other Purposes". The short title of the 1857 Act was assigned by section 1. The railway was to run, in the first instance, from Calcutta (on the left bank of the River Hooghly) to Kooshtee (on the right bank of the River Ganges), via Kishnaghur, Jessore, and Pubna (now Pabna) and eventually, by an extension, on to Dacca. The capital to be raised for the initial phase was 1 million (in 20 share units), followed by a second tranche (amount unspecified) for the Dacca extension.

(a) the formal incorporation of The Eastern Bengal Railway Company (with a common seal), empowered to conduct litigation (in England, India and "elsewhere"), to acquire and hold land in India, and to enter into contracts to "make, maintain, regulate, work, and use" the first phase of the railway "or any railway in India wholly or partly in lieu thereof", and any future extensions of the mainline or branches;[235]

(b) the railway company entering into contracts with the East India Company for a range of matters, including constructing and working the proposed railway line, obtaining guarantees for interest payments on the capital raised, classifying shares and dividend rates, providing to the East India Company various powers to supervise and regulate aspects of the railway company's operation "in England, in India, and elsewhere", and providing for sale or amalgamation of the railway undertaking or winding-up of the railway company at some future date;[236]

(c) the railway company levying "tolls and charges" for use of the railway network, subject to approval by the East India Company;[237]

(d) the internal governance arrangements for the railway company (for example, the holding of general meetings and directors' meetings; quoracy requirements for meetings; numbers and qualification of directors);[238]

[234] The 1857 Act, preamble.

[235] The 1857 Act, s 5. The railway company was also authorised to provide "any works or conveniences" which were ancillary to its main function, such as ferries, floating bridges and "other means of communication by water and telegraphs": ibid. The railway company's common seal would reside in England, but the company was authorised to create a second seal "for use in India", the application of which would be deemed to "be as valid and effectual as if the common seal were affixed" to a particular document: ibid., s 6.

[236] The 1857 Act, s 7. The section listed some 18 instances where contractual arrangements might be required. Any contract, once entered into, would bind both the railway company and its shareholders. The power to enter into a contract included power by the railway company or the East India Company to modify previous contractual arrangements made under the 1857 Act: ibid., s 8. Any differences arising were to be resolved by arbitration, ordinarily under the Companies Clauses Consolidation Act 1845 (which Act was to apply in India as in England): ibid., ss 3, 9. The expression "East India Company" in the Act meant both that company "and other (if any) the supreme government from time to time of India, by whomsoever and under whatsoever authority or in whatsoever part of India the functions of the supreme government are from time to time discharged". "India" in this context was limited to the territories (current and future) under the government of the East India Company: ibid., s 2.

[237] The 1857 Act, s 10.

(e) the appointment of committees and individuals to act for the railway company "in India or elsewhere" to oversee the construction and operation of the railway system, and the issue and registration arrangements for shares and bonds;[239]

(f) the raising by the railway company of additional capital, by share issue, up to a ceiling of 6 million;[240]

(g) the ability of the railway company to borrow, by way of bond issues;[241]

(h) the establishing of a registration office or offices in India to handle issues and transfers of shares and bonds, and to register shareholders;[242] and

(i) various ancillary matters.[243]

Status of the 1857 Act

8. The function of the 1857 Act was to give life to the Eastern Bengal Railway Company. It was designed to incorporate the railway company as a viable entity, and to give it power to acquire lands, to enter into contracts and significantly to increase its capital base. The Act was the first in a series spanning the late 19th century.[244]

9. The Eastern Bengal Railway Company survived until 1887 or thereabouts when it was, in all likelihood, dissolved.

10. The 1857 Act is now spent and may be repealed in whole.

Extent

11. The 1857 Act related only to the affairs of the Eastern Bengal Railway Company. That company operated in India (as then defined) and in England, with its head office based in London.

12. The Act applied to Great Britain, to India (in the state of West Bengal) and to, what today is, Bangladesh.

[238] The 1857 Act, ss 11-17. All general meetings and meetings of directors were to be held only in England, and the quorum for directors' meetings was to be "such number as the East India Company and the [railway] company mutually determine": ibid., s 15. Company auditors could be appointed without being shareholders: ibid., s 22.

[239] The 1857 Act, s 18. The power vested in committees or individuals was also to include "the control and conduct of any of the affairs, in India or elsewhere, of the company": ibid. So long as the appointed committees and individuals acted within their terms of reference, their decisions would be treated as valid and binding on the company, and they would be entitled to the same indemnities as directors of the company: ibid., ss 20, 21. The railway company was entitled to regulate the manner in which committees conducted their business (including determining the quorum): ibid., s 19.

[240] The 1857 Act, ss 23-32. The company's original capital ceiling was 1 million (derived from 50,000 20 shares), but that could be extended by resolution of a general meeting to 1.5 million by the company alone, or to 6 million with the sanction of the East India Company. The additional capital raised was to be treated as "part of their general capital", and would be subject to all the rights and liabilities attached to the original capital and the shares underpinning it: ibid., s 25. The additional capital would be raised by the sale of shares of several classes (with different privileges and dividends attached): ibid., s 27. In the first instance the new issue of shares was to be offered for sale proportionately to existing company shareholders (although the offer would be time limited): ibid., ss 28-30. On issue, shares were to bear the common seal in England or the Indian seal: ibid., s 31.

[241] The 1857 Act, ss 33-35. Ordinarily the company could only borrow on bond up to the equivalent of one-third of its subscribed capital, and the East India Company was to be afforded priority in any of its claims over bondholders (excepting those sanctioned by the East India Company). Borrowing by mortgage was prohibited.

[242] The 1857 Act, ss 36-42. If more than one India office were to be opened, each office was to be distinguished by its place name. The India registers were to have the same status as those maintained by the company in England, and duplicate versions could also be kept in England. Shares and bonds could be transferred by their holders from one register office to another. They were deemed to be held at the locality in which they were, at any given time, either registered or about to be registered.

[243] The 1857 Act. ss 43-48, covering newspaper advertisements (in India, to be published in "the presidency of Bengal"), published notices, non-repugnancy of company byelaws (which were first to be approved by the East India Company or a judicial body), appeals from adjudications, and the costs of obtaining the 1857 Act and of company formation (to be borne by the railway company).

Eastern Bengal Railway Act 1866 (29 & 30 Vict. cxxxvi) - Purpose

13. Following enactment of the 1857 Act, the railway company was able to secure the following:

(a) a guarantee by the East India Company relating to interest (at 5% p.a.) on the railway company's original capital of 1 million;

(b) a deed of settlement (dated February 1858) whereby the railway company's capital was subscribed, and the directors were given full power both to conduct the business of the company and to manage extension of the undertaking and the company's capital, and to promote an Act to authorise and facilitate these steps; and

(c) a contract (dated July 1858) with the East India Company whereby the railway company would construct and operate the railway network as "common carriers".[245]

14. By 1866, the railway company had built the line from Calcutta to Kooshtee (on the Ganges) and was operating a regular rail service. It had also, with the Indian government's sanction, acquired and commenced working a steam vessel service between Kooshtee and Dacca (with intermediate boarding points). Following an arrangement between the railway company and the Indian government, the company was now in the process of constructing the "continuation" of the line from Kooshtee to Goalundo, en route to Dacca.[246] Both parties thought it "expedient" that the "purposes" for which the railway company had been incorporated in 1857 should be "in some respects more clearly defined and regulated", and that clarification necessitated statutory intervention.[247] To this end, what was to become the 1866 Act was promoted. The 1866 Act and the 1857 Act were to be read and construed together.[248]

15. The principal purposes (in broad terms) of the 1866 Act were as follows:[249]

(a) to authorise the railway company to undertake various functions ancillary to its principal operation;[250]

(b) to authorise the railway company to use the moneys within its control (including those raised by share issue or borrowing) to pursue the functions set out in the 1866 Act;[251]

(c) to validate retrospectively any sanction given previously by the Indian government for works undertaken or things to be done;[252] and

(d) to extend the jurisdiction of the railway company's appointed committees to include functions under the 1866 Act.[253]

Status of the 1866 Act

16. The function of the 1866 Act was to extend the range of authorisations afforded to the railway company under the 1857 Act and the subsequent deed of settlement (of 1858), so as to facilitate the building and operation of the first and second stages of the rail link. The two Acts were to be construed as if they were one.

17. The Eastern Bengal Railway Company survived until about 1887 when it was probably dissolved.

18. The 1866 Act is now spent and may be repealed in whole.

[244] The 1857 Act was specifically amended and extended by a further Act in 1866 (see below for the 1866 Act, ss 3, 8).

[245] Preamble to the Eastern Bengal Railway Act 1866 (29 & 30 Vict. c.cxxxvi) ("the 1866 Act"), being "An Act for regulating the Powers of the Eastern Bengal Railway Company; and for other Purposes". The short title of the 1866 Act was assigned by section 1. The railway company's directors, under the deed of settlement of 1858, had been empowered to make "arrangements with the East India Company, the Board of Control, or the Indian Government for the time being, and others in Great Britain and the East Indies respectively and elsewhere". The railway (for both passengers and goods) was to run from Calcutta to Dacca via "a point on the River Ganges", and was to include a branch to Jessore. The East India Company would pay 5% p.a. interest on the railway company's capital outlay: ibid., preamble. The estimated cost of the project was in the order of 1 million.

[246] The 1866 Act, preamble. By 1866, the Secretary of State for India in Council (in essence the Indian government) had taken over the railway regulatory responsibilities from the East India Company, although he still represented that company. The East India Company was not formally dissolved until 1874.

[247] The 1866 Act, preamble.

[248] The 1866 Act, s 2.

[249] The 1866 Act contained various savings for the rights of both the Government of India and the railway company, and provided that the costs of obtaining the 1866 Act were to be borne by the railway company: ibid., ss 9-11.

[250] The 1866 Act, s 3. The section set out twelve "works and conveniences and things", including: building, hiring and operating "steam and other ships and vessels, and craft of every description" for use on rivers; carrying in those vessels "passengers, animals, coals, minerals, materials, and goods" between the railway depots at Kooshtee, Dacca, Naraingunge (now Narayanganj), Sylhet (and neighbouring districts) and "intermediate places"; levying tolls and charges on vessel use (also provided for in section 7); repairing other company's vessels where used "in connexion with the company's railway"; chartering vessels for work on the Rivers Ganges, Burhampootra (now Brahmaputra), and Megna (now Meghna) and tributaries; and establishing and operating provident and savings organisations for company employees in India. Section 3 of the 1866 Act had the effect of supplementing the powers set out in the 1857 Act (above).

[251] The 1866 Act, s 4. No capital moneys, however, were to be expended without the prior sanction of the Indian government: ibid., s 5.

[252] The 1866 Act, s 6.

[253] The 1866 Act, s 8. The provisions extended were those in section 18 of the 1857 Act, as qualified by sections 19-21 (see above).

[254] Preamble to the Eastern Bengal Railway Company Purchase Act 1884 (47 & 48 Vict. c.cciv) ("the 1884 Act") being "An Act to provide for the vesting of the undertaking of the Eastern Bengal Railway Company in the Secretary of State in Council of India and for other purposes". The short title of the 1884 Act was assigned by section 1. The 1858 contract laid down the mechanics for such purchase (including acquisition of "any lands in Great Britain" held by the railway company "for the purpose of their business"): the 1884 Act, preamble. The purchase was to be made on behalf of the Government of India. Payment could be by way of outright cash settlement or by way of annuity to run for the balance of the original 99 year term. Only a month after execution of the 1858 contract (in August of that year) Parliament intervened in the arrangements for governing India and enacted legislation (Government of India Act 1858 (21 & 22 Vict. c.106)) which transferred responsibility for the government of territories and the benefits of subsisting contracts from the East India Company to Her Majesty Queen Victoria (who acted through her Secretary of State in Council of India).

[255] The company had raised 400,000 by debenture issue.

[256] The 1884 Act, preamble. Under the 1876 contract the guarantee and indemnity covered the payment of interest on two debenture issues (of 52,650 and of 409,700) and repayment of the secured capital sums at the stipulated time, and payment of interest and repayment of capital on two issues of debenture-stock (representing 411,308 and 45,400). Under the contract of 1879, the Secretary of State gave similar guarantees in respect of issued inconvertible debentures to the value of 150,000. The two contracts were made pursuant to specific powers conferred on Indian railway companies by the Indian Railway Companies Act 1868 (31 & 32 Vict. c.26) which allowed them to raise moneys by debenture stock (with a high priority of payment of interest) as an alternative to using mortgages or bonds.

[257] The 1884 Act, preamble.

[258] The 1884 Act, preamble. The preamble indicated that "it is expedient to make [statutory] provision with respect to the distribution of the [provident fund]".

[259] The 1884 Act, preamble. The purchase price (payable in London) would have been 3,391,916 17s 5d. The alternative annuity payment period would expire in 1957. The Bank of England was commissioned to calculate the annuity payments using a pre-determined rate of interest.

[260] The 1884 Act, preamble.

[261] The costs of promoting the 1884 Act were to be treated as "part of the working expenses of the undertaking of the [railway] company": the 1884 Act, s 55.

[262] The 1884 Act, s 3. Vesting of the undertaking was to occur on 30 June 1884. Certain property was not to be transferred and was specifically excepted in Schedule 1 to the 1884 Act. Subject to certain exceptions relating to debenture stock (see further below), all existing contracts between the Secretary of State or his predecessor body and the railway company were to end, and the Secretary of State was to indemnify the railway company against almost all existing debts and liabilities incurred with prior sanction: ibid., ss 5, 8.

[263] The 1884 Act, s 4. On distribution, the liabilities of the railway company and of the Secretary of State in respect of the fund ceased.

[264] The 1884 Act, s 6. The receipt given to the Bank by any debenture stockholder for moneys obtained was deemed to be "a sufficient discharge", irrespective of any trusts under which they were held: ibid., s 7.

[265] The 1884 Act, ss 9, 10. The annuity was to be calculated using the rate of interest ascertained by the Bank of England in accordance with the 1858 contract (see above) and paid half-yearly, commencing in July 1884 and terminating in July 1957. The annuity was in lieu of an outright cash payment of just under 3,392,000. Sections 11 to 13 set out the mechanics by which the Secretary of State would apportion and pay the annuity, via the Bank of England.

[266] The 1884 Act, ss 15, 17. Class A annuitants were those who elected to receive their annuities in full; Class B were those who elected to receive partial annuities less a contribution towards a sinking fund. The Bank had to give notice to every stockholder requiring them to make an election: ibid., s 16. On transfer from stockholder status to annuitant status the stock certificates were to be cancelled: ibid., s 18. Annuities were to be paid at the appropriate level half-yearly: ibid., s 19.

[267] The 1884 Act, ss 20, 21. The section listed a number of authorised securities, ranging from "the parliamentary stocks or public funds of Great Britain" via Indian railway debenture stock to loans to local government corporations and local health boards secured on the rates. The Bank was required half-yearly to publish a statement in the London Gazette and in one London daily newspaper showing the amounts invested and their destination.

[268] The 1884 Act, ss 22-33. These sections covered issues such as authentication of claims, payment of annuities to persons under legal incapacity, transfers of annuities, and recovery of administration expenses.

[269] The 1884 Act, s 34 and Sch 2. The pensions were to be paid from the annuity fund, supplemented by payments from the Secretary of State, "by way of compensation for the loss of [the individual's] office": ibid. The Bank was required to aggregate payments from the Secretary of State and from the annuity fund and then to apportion the available total amongst the various pensioners on a half-yearly basis: ibid., s 35.

[270] The 1884 Act, ss 36-38. The Bank, however, was to be entitled to treat the registered proprietor of existing stock as having absolute entitlement to it (and to send notices accordingly by post); and, in any dispositions by a proprietor referring to stock, the beneficiary would be deemed entitled to take that reference as a reference to the equivalent in allotted annuities: ibid., ss 39, 40 and 42.

[271] The 1884 Act, s 41. The excepted moneys (as detailed in Schedule 1 to the 1884 Act) were specifically excluded from the vesting by section 3 (see above).

[272] The 1884 Act, s 43. There followed a raft of mechanical provisions which dealt with, amongst other things, unclaimed annuities (which would be repaid to the Secretary of State after 10 years had elapsed, with the exception of those elements earmarked for the sinking fund, for the pension fund and for the Bank's management expenses); indemnification of the Bank by the Secretary of State; revival of the Secretary of State's liability for unclaimed annuities in certain circumstances; and rescission of payment orders by the Chancery Division of the High Court prior to repayment: ibid., ss 44-49.

[273] The 1884 Act, ss 50, 51 and 54. Parliament must first have approved the Secretary of State creating the applicable India stock, and the Secretary of State was required to invest any surplus moneys generated so as to create a sinking fund "to be applied in reduction of the public debt in India". The amount set aside was to be adequate to repay the principal of the stock by 30 July 1957. Once the public debt of India had been reduced through the sinking fund, the Secretary of State's various obligations would cease: ibid. s 50. No annuities

[274] 1 Edw.8 & 1 Geo.6 c. 14 (1937) ("the 1937 Act"), s 9, referring to the 1884 and other Acts, and reciting the Secretary of State in Council of India's redemption of various "railway annuities and debenture stock", required the Secretary of State to continue to make provision for the sinking fund and reduction of the "public debt of India" by setting aside a specified annual sum.

[275] The 1937 Act, s12(3), Sch 2 repealed sections 50 and 54 of the 1884 Act (for which, see above). The whole of the 1937 Act was itself repealed in due course by section 1 of, and part 4 of schedule 1 to the Statute Law (Repeals) Act 1993.

[276] The London Gazette, Issue 41072, 17 May 1957, page 2947.

Extent

19. The 1866 Act related only to the affairs of the Eastern Bengal Railway Company (in conjunction with the East India Company). The railway company functioned in India and in England.

20. The Act applied to Great Britain, to India (in the state of West Bengal) and to, what is today, Bangladesh.

Eastern Bengal Railway Company Purchase Act 1884 (47 & 48 Vict. c.cciv) - Purpose

21. Under the 1858 contract with the East India Company, the railway company was to take a 99 year lease of such part of the line as had been constructed (reserving to the East India Company an option to purchase the railway operation on expiry of 25 and 50 year intervals).[254]

22. In March 1862, the Secretary of State for India and the railway company entered into a debenture contract whereby the Secretary of State undertook to pay the interest on the company's inconvertible debenture issue together with the principal sum when repayment was due.[255] That contract was followed by two further debenture contracts (in 1876 and 1879) under which the Secretary of State gave similar guarantees.[256]

23. By 1884, the railway company had constructed and was working the line from Calcutta to the Ganges, "with a continuation to Goalundo in the direction of Dacca".[257] Part of the debenture liability had been discharged, a ferry service (between Goalundo and Dacca) was operational, and the railway company had established a provident fund for its employees (following the terms of the 1866 Act: see above).[258] In the previous year (July 1883) the Secretary of State had given formal notice to the railway company, under the 1858 contract, of Her Majesty's intention to purchase the company's undertaking in June 1884. Instead of paying the purchase price as a single capital sum, the Secretary of State opted to pay by way of an annuity spread over the balance of the original 99 year term.[259]

24. In the light of this development, the railway company thought it "expedient to make provision for creating a sinking fund" so that its stockholders could convert their holdings into annuities with the fund attached. This required specific statutory authority, as did the need to close the company's stock registers, to manage the annuities, to pay pensions "to certain of the company's officers, clerks and servants", and to authorise the Secretary of State to exchange annuities for "India stock" and to redeem the company's "irredeemable" debenture stock.[260] To this end, the railway company promoted what was to become the 1884 Act.[261]

25. Once enacted the 1884 Act had the following purposes (in broad terms):

(a) to authorise the transfer and vesting of the railway company's assets to, and in, the Secretary of State (together with the debts and obligations incurred by the company), and the termination of the company's various debenture contract liabilities for moneys previously advanced;[262]

(b) to require the railway company to distribute the assets of the provident fund amongst its beneficiaries;[263]

(c) to require the Secretary of State to pay, via the Bank of England, both interest and principal moneys when due on current debenture stock and debenture issues;[264]

(d) to authorise the Secretary of State to create the annuity by which the government would purchase the railway undertaking, and to charge that annuity on "the revenues of India in like manner as other liabilities incurred on account of the government of India";[265]

(e) to require the Bank of England to establish a sinking fund (so as to provide a capital pay-out in July 1957) by creating two classes of annuity holder and separate registers of annuitants;[266]

(f) to require the Bank of England to make regular deductions of prescribed amounts from the Class B annuities (to accumulate as the sinking fund) and, as trustees, to invest the amounts deducted in authorised securities;[267]

(g) to make various mechanistic arrangements relating to the management of the annuities and the eventual distribution of the sinking fund;[268]

(h) to provide a right to certain salaried officers and employees of the railway company to receive a pension based on the number of years served;[269]

(i) to authorise persons holding the railway company's stock in the capacity of trustee to hold Class B annuities in lieu of that stock, and to purchase further annuities, from June 1884 onwards (to be held subject to the same trust provisions);[270]

(j) to authorise the registered stockholders to hold a general meeting in November 1884 to declare a dividend from surplus profits and to divide up the excepted moneys (once quantified);[271]

(k) to require the railway company to repay to the Secretary of State any unclaimed sums in respect of dividends and debenture-related moneys (in return for which the Secretary of State would indemnify the company against all claims flowing from these sums);[272] and

(l) to authorise the Secretary of State to exchange annuities and irredeemable debenture stock for India stock where the annuitant or stockholder applied for exchange.[273]

Status of the 1884 Act

26. The 1884 Act was designed to authorise, and to pave the way for, the Eastern Bengal Railway Company divesting itself of its principal assets. The Act provided authorisation for a number of specific tasks which either facilitated, or were ancillary to, the transfer of the railway undertaking into state hands.

27. The 1884 Act was the final Act in the series of statutes designed to establish the Eastern Bengal rail network. The 1884 Act was supplemented in small part by the East India Loans Act 1937,[274] and repealed partially by the same Act.[275]

28. The railway undertaking having been transferred to the Indian government in 1884, the purpose underpinning the 1884 Act ceased to apply. The railway company itself was probably dissolved in or about 1887. One of the management obligations on the administrators of the sinking fund established by the 1884 Act was to publish every six months notices of investments made. The last notice was published on 17 May 1957.[276] From this, it may be assumed that the fund matured and a final payout was made within the six months following that date.

29. The 1884 Act is now spent and may be repealed in whole.

Extent

30. The 1884 Act related only to the affairs of the Eastern Bengal Railway Company, and its relationship with the then government of India. The railway company functioned in India and in England.

31. The Act applied to Great Britain, to India (in the state of West Bengal) and to, what today is, Bangladesh.

Consultation

32. HM Treasury, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the Department for International Development, the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform, Companies House, the Bank of England, the High Commission of India, the High Commission of Bangladesh and the relevant authorities in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have been consulted about the repeal proposals set out in this note.

LAW/005/017/06
9 July 2007

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