The official responsible for the Government of India and the political head of the State during the British rule is pointed out as the Secretary of the State. The post was created by the Government of India Act of 1858 when the express administration of Indian Government was taken up by Britain. The Government of India Act 1858 stipulated that administrative affairs of India would be presided over by the Queen in England acting with the Secretary of the State.
A quasi commercial position was given to the Secretary of the State which would facilitate him to acquire the rights and pay off the liabilities succeeded to him by the East India Company. The Secretary of State is considered to be a body corporate and he can sue and be sued in the name of India, can acquire and hold property in the name of Government of India. The executive powers including administration, management, direction and power over India were exercised by the Secretary of State. He also devised policies and implement emergency powers conferred under the 1858 Act. In 1947 when India became independent the office of the Secretary of the State was eliminated.
The Continuance of Legal Proceedings Act, 1948 is a Central legislation which assists in the prolongation of legal procedures with or in opposition to the Secretary of State. The Act stipulates under the Preamble that it is practical to carry on the legal procedures, which are imminent before Indian independence, with or in opposition to the Secretary of State.
The Act uses the word ‘appointed day’ which means the day on which India became independent. The application of the Act extends only to states that were in existence before first day of November 1956. The Act states that where a legal proceeding was pending in a court before the appointed day within the territory of India or part of the State with the Secretary of State, the proceeding shall be continued. But where the proceeding is with respect to the Governor General in Council, it can be continued with the Territory of India. The proceedings can be sustained with State of West Bengal or East Punjab, where the procedure was in relation to the State of West Bengal. Where the issue is regarding the Province of the Governor, the proceedings can be initiated against the Province.
The Act includes a provision regarding omission of time to calculate the limitation period. An appeal shall be preferred or an application can be made as a part of the continued proceeding with in the prescribed time but the Act excludes the period from the day of independence to twenty eighth day of May 1948 from such appeal or submission. Hence on the prescribed date an appeal or claim cannot be executed with or against the Secretary of State. The Act expressly repeals The Continuance of Legal Proceedings Ordinance of 1948. The powers exercised or any action initiated under the authority conferred under the Ordinance shall be considered to have done under the control conferred by the present Act.
The objective behind the execution of the Act is to afford justice to people who were at the time of independence striving to get hold of their rights provided under various Acts. If not the Act was enacted, the legal proceedings would have come to an end which would ultimately lead to denial of justice. Therefore, the Continuance of Legal Proceedings Act, 1948 is an endeavor of the Government as a first step to accomplish the ends of righteousness. The Act can be said as a beneficial legislation to continue proceedings and acquire the rights and discharge the duties endowed with.