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Evolution Of Adalat System In India

The Adalat System was introduced by Warren Hastings in Calcutta. The visionaries had an idea to establish an efficient judiciary and as a first stem they formulated this Adalat system which paved way to our present judicial system after undergoing various modifications. The Evolution of Adalat System and the Judicial Plans of 1772 and 1774 will be explained elaborately in the article.

The History Behind the Evolution of the Adalat System:

The British East India Company acquired the areas of Bengal, Bihar and Orissa. They acquired the diwani rights of Bengal, Bihar and Orissa. During the period of the Mughal rule, they categorized the areas into divisions called as Suba and appointed two officials. The Nawab was the official who had the power to perform administrative and military functions.

The second official is Diwan who had the power to collect revenue. Since the company had acquired the areas of Bengal, Bihar and Orissa they gradually acquired the diwani rights and also took over the administrative power. Initially they appointed an Indian to acquire diwani but it had some defects so the company took over the right of acquire Diwani. They created a new term called as Mofussil's to address the areas located near the presidency towns.

The Reasons which induced Britishers to create a New Judicial Setup:

  • Due to absence of a proper governance system the local leaders and zamindars took power in their hands and started to act as able administrators
  • The Kazi courts which were in existence handled civil and criminal started detoreiating in the way they handled cases
  • The Company servants started to act in improper manner by indulging in corruption during collection of taxes from peasants.

The Judicial plan of 1772:

The Judicial plan of 1772 developed by Warren Hastings introduced the concept of Adalat System. The Judicial plan of 1772 divided the areas of Bengal, Bihar and Orissa into several districts. As per the Judicial plan of 1772 the divided districts were appointed with a collector in charge of the administration work. The company servants were appointed as Collectors.

The Collectors were granted the power to collect revenue and were also empowered the authority to serve as justice in courts and grant justice. The 1772 Plan was drafted by Warren Hastings and he was a able administrator the plan of 1772 introduced the Adalat system and the judicial powers were being separated from the Zamindars.

Explanation of The Judicial plan of 1772:

Small Cause Courts:

The small cause courts were located in every village or pergunnah and dealt with small or petty cases. The courts had a jurisdictional capacity to handle cases up to the value of Rs:10. These courts were headed by the head of the village or the head farmer of the respective village.

Mofussil Diwani Adalat Courts:

The Mofussil Diwani Adalat Courts were to established in each & every district and handled importantly revenue and civil cases. These courts particularly addressed matters like marriages disputes, inheritance and disputes relating to partition, castes disputes, debt issues and disputes related to loans &their repayment, contracts disagreements, property and partnership disputes.

These courts were equipped with the jurisdictional authority to handle cases of having value up to Rs 500 and in such cases, appeals were not allowed. Collector of the district presided as the judge of this court and he was assisted by native law officers such as the Kazis and Pundits. The Kazis and Pundits used to assist the judge or the collector when they did not have knowledge about the personal laws of the Hindus and Muslims.

Mofussil Nizamat Adalat Courts:

These Mofussil Nizamat Adalat Courts were also called as Fauzdari Adalat's. These courts were established in each and every district but dealt exclusively in criminal cases. The Mofussil Nizamat Adalat Courts did not have the jurisdictional power to grant death sentences or equipped with the power to forfeit accused property. In the earlier mentioned instances, they required the approval of Sadar Diwani Adalat courts for final orders.

These Mofussil Nizamat Adalat Courts were presided only by the Muslim law officers. The Moulvi as a law officer used to expound the law, while the Kazi as a law officer and the Mufti as a law officer used to give Fatwa and render the judgment accordingly. But alongside these officers of law, collectors played the role of a supervisor. He made sure that all the necessary witnesses were being heard and all the cases were tried regularly and that the judgments were impartial.

Sadar Diwani Adalat Courts:

Sadar Diwani Adalat Courts were considered to be the apex court to address all civil disputes in the province. These courts were equipped with the authority to have original as well as appellate jurisdiction. These Courts heard appeals from Mofussil Diwani Adalat Courts. These courts were equipped with the authority to hear matters involving dispute of over Rs 500.

These Courts levied a charge of five percent of the amount of dispute on the concerned petition or appeal. Adar Diwani Adalat Courts were presided by the governor and his council. Sadar Diwani Adalat Court was established in the presidency town of Calcutta. The Court had its first trial on 17th March, 1773.

Sadar Nizamat Adalat Courts:

Sadar Nizamat Adalat Court was the apex court for providing justice in criminal cases in the province. These Courts have the authority to deal in both original as well as appellate jurisdiction.

These Courts have the final authority to decide over cases of death sentence and forfeiture of property. In cases of death sentence, the death warrant was drafted by the Sadar Nizamat Adalat Court and it was to be signed by the Nawab as the head of the Nizamat providing his approval.

This court was presided over by Daroga-I-Adalat who used to perform the duties since he was the judge of this courtroom. He was being assisted through a chief Kazi, the chief Mufti and 3 Moulvies. It was very much similar to Mofussil Nizamat Adalat, there was a supervisory authority in the position of the of Governor-in-Council who used to maintain a and monitor over the functioning of this court. It was earlier established in Calcutta but subsequently later shifted to Murshidabad, where the Nawab resided, so that they can lessen the time and energy which is used there to get his signature in instances of death sentences.

The cases irrespective of being civil or criminal in nature were heard in open courts. This mechanism instilled a sense of assurance in the minds of people that transparency was maintained and also greatly ensured in maintaining the peoples trust over the judicial authority. The Adalat courts were established either at the district level or lower level and they maintained records of cases heard and decided such that the same were to be sent the Sadar Adalat's.

Establishment Of Updated Civil And Criminal Procedures And Laws:
In civil cases the procedure was the plaintiff must file a petition as a complaint and upon the complaint the defendant must file a reply and after this stage the Adalat Court will hear the matters. The parties will be examined and the evidences will be inspected and as a last step the decree will be passed by the Court.

The Court will only entertain cases which have not exceeded more than 12 years from the date of dispute. There was a system of arbitration to assist the functions of the civil court. In criminal cases the case of criminal procedure is similar to civil cases. To reduce dacoity very strict laws were made. Mutilation is an important form of punishment given to accused persons and this punishment was disliked by Warren Hastings.

Defects of the 1772 Plan:

Inadequate quantity of courts at village degree (small causes courts) & attention of an excessive amount of power in the duty of collector were the defects of the 1772 plan.

Judicial Plan of 1774:

The Defects of the judicial plan of 1772 were rectified in the new judicial plan made in 1774.

The collectors were being replaced by the Amils or Diwans who were appointed in each district. The role of the Amils or Diwans was to perform the duty of a revenue collector as well as judge of Mofussil Diwani Adalat.

The territory of Bengal, Bihar and Orissa was further more divided into six divisions. With the headquarters located at Dinajpur, Murshidabad, Calcutta, Patna and Dacca. And every division had several districts under its command.

A Provincial Council made up of 4-5 covenanted servants of the company was formulated in each and every divisions & they had the following duties:

  • To Supervise revenue collection: They were to supervise the collection of revenue by the Amils.
  • To provide justice to appeals from Mofussil Diwani Adalat.
  • The Provincial Council had an original jurisdiction and used to act as court of first instance.
This system proved to be beneficial as an appeal system was created close to district Adalat's and thus supervision of the working of district judges was possible which was not in the previous case of governor and council.

The Adalat System was a very effective system in plan but in its implementations, there was more confusions regarding the superior authority. The legal professionals lacked expertise and caused delay in providing verdicts which was its major drawback.

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