Evolution of the Indian banking system

In this article, we will discuss India’s Banking system, its evolution, the introduction of technology in the banking sector and a landmark judgement.

Introduction to the Banking System in India

The Indian economy is regarded as one of the world’s rising economies, with the quickest growth rate in the modern era. Numerous crucial industries, such as the banking sector, the capital market, the money market, the financial services industry, and others, contribute to its rapid expansion. But one of the most notable segments of the Indian economy has, without a doubt, been the banking sector.

Bare Act PDFs

Banking Regulation Act of 1949 clarifies in section 5(b) that banking means accepting deposits from the public which are repayable on demand, withdrawal of cheques, lending loans etc.

Section 5(c) of the Banking Regulation Act of 1949 defines a banking company as any company that transacts the banking business in India.

The evolution of banks in India has been a fascinating journey, shaped by a combination of historical, economic, and political factors. The banking system in India has undergone significant transformations over the years, from ancient times to the present day.

Please keep reading to look at the evolution of banks in India, from the early days of temple banks to the modern-day digital banks.

Evolution of Banks in India

Here is the history of the banking system in India and how it evolved.

Bare Act PDFs

Temple Banks

The earliest form of banking in India can be traced back to ancient times when the concept of temple banks was prevalent. These banks were established within temples, where people would deposit their valuables for safekeeping. The temple priests would then issue receipts for the deposited items, which could be used as a form of currency. This system of depositing and issuing receipts was the precursor to the modern banking system.

Bank of Hindustan

During the British colonial period, the East India Company established the first modern bank in India, known as the Bank of Hindustan, in 1770. However, this bank was not successful and closed down in 1829.

Bank of Bengal, Bombay, and Madras

The first successful bank in India was the Bank of Bengal, established in 1809. This was followed by the establishment of the Bank of Bombay in 1840 and the Bank of Madras in 1843. These three banks were known as the Presidency Banks, and they played a key role in the economic development of India during the colonial period.

Reserve Bank of India

After India gained independence in 1947, the government of India nationalized the banking system in 1969. The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) took over the control of the Presidency Banks, and 14 other major commercial banks were nationalized. Presidency Banks were converted into Imperial Banks in 1921, and in 1955 Imperial Bank was converted into State Bank of India, which is currently India’s largest public sector bank.

Note: RBI’s ownership was transferred to the Government of India through the RBI Transfer of Ownership Act, 1948, as prior to this, the government had no control over RBI, and after the transfer of ownership, RBI was given the power to regulate other banks through Banking Regulation Act, 1949.

Private Sector Banks

In the early 1980s, the Indian government initiated a policy of deregulation and liberalization of the economy. This led to a series of reforms in the banking sector, including the introduction of new technologies and the entry of private sector banks. The RBI also allowed foreign banks to enter the Indian market, which led to increased competition and innovation in the banking sector.

The Introduction of Technology in the Banking Sector

A more thorough liberalisation was initiated in 1991, with the introduction of economic liberalisation and new policies to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the banking system.

The RBI introduced a series of measures to improve the functioning of banks, such as introducing prudential norms and strengthening the supervisory framework. The government also encouraged the use of technology in banking, which led to the widespread adoption of Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) and the use of electronic funds transfer (EFT) systems.

The 21st century has seen a significant transformation of the banking sector in India, with the advent of new technologies and the increasing use of digital platforms. The RBI has been at the forefront of promoting the use of technology in banking, with the launch of several initiatives such as the India Financial Stack (IFS) and the Bharat Bill Payment System (BBPS).

IFS: The IFS is an infrastructure platform that enables the integration of various financial services, such as payments, lending, and insurance.

BBPS: The BBPS is an integrated bill payment system that enables customers to pay their bills through a single platform.

Digital Banks and Mobile-Only Banks

The emergence of digital platforms has led to the development of new banking models, such as digital banks and mobile-only banks. These banks operate entirely online and do not have physical branches, which enables them to offer services at a lower cost. The RBI has also granted licenses to several digital banks, such as Paytm Payments Bank, which is expected to increase the reach of banking services to the unbanked population.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Data Analytics in Indian Banks

Another important development in the banking sector has been the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and data analytics. Banks in India are now utilizing these technologies to improve their operations and customer service.

For example, AI-based chatbots are being used to provide 24/7 customer support and automate routine tasks, such as account opening and loan application processing. Data analytics is also being used to improve the risk management and fraud detection capabilities of banks.

Digital Payments

The government of India has also been taking steps to increase financial inclusion and promote digital payments. The Jan Dhan Yojana, launched in 2014, is a flagship financial inclusion scheme that aims to provide access to banking services to every household in India. The government has also launched several digital payment platforms, such as the Unified Payments Interface (UPI) and Bharat Interface for Money (BHIM), which have been instrumental in promoting digital payments in the country.

Scope for Improvement

Despite the progress made in the banking sector, some challenges still need to be addressed. For example, the penetration of banking services in rural areas is still low, and there is a need to increase the reach of banking services in these areas. There is also a need to improve the quality of financial products and services and to make them more accessible to the poor and marginalised sections of society.

Rustom Cavasjee Cooper vs Union of India, AIR 1970 SC 564

It was a case where the petitioner, Rustom Cavasjee Cooper, challenged the validity of the Banking Companies (Acquisition and Transfer of Undertakings) Act of 1970. This Act nationalized 14 private banks in India and transferred their assets and liabilities to the Reserve Bank of India.

A five-judge bench of the Supreme Court of India heard the case. The main issues, in this case, were whether the nationalization of private banks was within the scope of the government’s powers under the Constitution of India and whether the compensation offered to the shareholders of the nationalized banks was fair.

The petitioner argued that the nationalization of banks was beyond the scope of the government’s powers and that the compensation offered was inadequate.

In its judgement, the Supreme Court of India upheld the validity of the Act. The court held that the nationalization of banks was a measure taken in the larger public interest to control the economy and to ensure that credit is distributed in a manner consistent with the needs of the country.

Court also said that the government has the power to take such measures under the Constitution of India. Further, the court held that the Act was not discriminatory and that the compensation offered was in line with the market value of the shares at the time of nationalization and was fair and reasonable.

The judgement, in this case, established that the nationalization of private banks in India was a valid exercise of government power and that the compensation offered to shareholders was fair. This judgement had a significant impact on the Indian banking sector, and it is still considered a landmark judgement in Indian legal history.

It should be noted that this judgement and the nationalization of banks were part of a larger policy of the Government of India to achieve a socialist pattern of society. The nationalization of banks also helped in increasing the access to banking services for the people and also helped in directing credit to the priority sectors of the economy.


Several factors, including government policies, technological advancements, and economic developments, have shaped the evolution of banks in India.

The banking sector has undergone significant transformations over the years, from the early days of temple banks to modern-day digital banks. The government and the RBI have been taking steps to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the banking system and to increase financial inclusion.

However, some challenges still need to be addressed, such as increasing the reach of banking services to rural areas and improving the quality of financial products and services.

Related Readings:
Mergers and Acquisitions in the Banking Sector and Its Impact
2. eBanking in India: Its Types and Importance
3. Composition and Powers of Adjudicating Authority Under PMLA

Suhani Dhariwal
WritingLaw » Law Articles » Evolution of the Banking System in India Law Study Material
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