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'The Doctrine of Lapse' was an annexation policy purportedly devised by Lord Dalhousie, who was the Governor General for the East India Company in India between 1848 and 1856. According to the Doctrine, any princely state or territory under the direct influence (paramountcy) of the British East India Company (the dominant imperial power in the subcontinent), as a vassal state under the British Subsidiary System, would automatically be annexed if the ruler was either "manifestly incompetent or died without a direct heir". The latter supplanted the long-established right of an Indian sovereign without an heir to choose a successor. In addition, the British decided whether potential rulers were competent enough. The doctrine and its application were widely regarded by many Indians as illegitimate.