Under the provisions, the place of its fifth member was reserved for a law qualified person.
Apart from this, the Act authorized the Governor-General to nominate a President who was to preside over the meetings of the Executive Council in his absence.
The Governor-General was also given the power to make rules and regulations for the conduct of the business of the Executive Council i.e. he was accorded authority to enact rules deemed fit by him.
The Governor-General had the right of increasing the strength of the Council by adding not less than 6 and not more than 12 members.
They were to be nominated by him for purposes of legislation. Half of the additional members were to be non-officials and were to hold office for two years.
The function of the Council was strictly limited to legislation. The Act forebaded the transactions of any other business.
The administrative departments were entrusted to different members, who were answerable to the Viceroy whose advice was sought before taking any decision on the departmental problems.
Indian Councils Act of 1861, provided that the Governments of Bombay and Madras be given power of nominating the Advocate-General and not less than 4 and not more than 8 additional members were to hold office for two years.
According to the Act, there was no distinction between the Central and Provincial subjects. The Central Government dealt with the subjects like Public Debt, Finance, Post Office, Telegraph, Religion etc.
The Act provided for creation of new provinces by the Governor-General. He was also authorized to divide or alter the limits of any presidency, province or territory.
Apart from this he was given the power to appoint Lieutenant Governors. The Act provided for issuance of Ordinances by the Governor and it could remain in force for a maximum of 6 months.
Although the Indian Council Act of 1861 marked an important step in the constitutional history of India it had no relation with the problems of general public.
It greatly helped the Governor-General in enacting legislation and made the Governor-General omnipotent. It brought the whole of India under his control, but the Act had to face opposition from the Indians.
Subsequently, an Amendment Bill was presented in the House of Lords, from the advice of Lord Crop, Secretary of State for India and it was passed in 1892 as the Indian Council Act.