Judicial Administration in Calcutta under East India Company
The judicial administration in Calcutta was controlled by the Nawab of the
Calcutta, prince Azim-ush-shah grandson of Aurangzeb. He posses the whole and
sole control and was subhahdar of Bengal (governor of a province).
In 1698, the company got the zamindari control of the 3 adjacent villages by the
Azim-ush-Shah. It was a great move and significance for the company because
zamindars are liable for the administration over the area they possess or
acquire, by this East India Company acquires the constitutional status under the
Mughal administration machinery.
Zamindars were liable for the administration; maintain law and order and not
more than that. Judiciary service was differently set up by the prince, for
civil and criminal cases. But soon disintegration took place in the Mughal
empire which leads to dysfunction and ceases of the judicial machinery. A vacuum
created in the field of the law and order sphere. So, in the absence of the
supreme power zamindars assume power and started performing the judicial
function. Each zamindar different court for different jurisdictions even started
trying the capital nature cases but it had to been confirmed by the nawab's
court at Murshidabad.
The advantage took by the company was like, the government appoints the post
named ‘Collector' basically known as the zamindar but that three villages that
were under the control of the company exercise the excessive use of power. Such
as they serve capital punishment without any confirmation from the nawab's court
of Murshidabad and also separated the fozdary and Diwani courts.
This keeps working in the process till the 1727 until the Mayor's court enforced
like other presidencies because after that power was derived from the royal
charters. Mayor court worked as the civil court and had only jurisdiction of the
civil cases whereas the criminal cases are tried by the governor and 5 appointed
officials. There is also a method to appeal from the mayors court to governor
and if the monetary value of the case exceed 1000 pagodas or 3000 rupees then
there is way to appeal in the privy council (Supreme authority to appeal) also.
After the battle of Plassey of 1756 the real power comes in the hand of the
company but the company was not wanted to rule and show their dominance, they
put nawabs as the puppet because nawab was not in the condition to retaliate.
The de facto company took over the control of the Bihar and Orissa region but de
jure they were still in the possession of the Mughals i.e. nawab.
But in the
region of the Bengal, the workers and the servant of the company took the
advantage and use the power in their privilege, start the drain of wealth, and
soon became rich. Due to that workers were being called Nawabs by the
Englishmen. As the drain, if wealth and looting the resources the region of
Bengal faced the serious problem of famine and also the East India Company went
in default. So, East India Company urges the British government financial help.
All the circumstances happening in the region of Bengal in India leads the
British government by formation of the Regulating authority act. Which changes
the certain provision of the Company's Constitution and converted the fort
William into the Supreme Court of Judicature.
There are many remarkable amendments such as the managing of the affairs of the
company by the 24 directors of the court but the most important one was the
By regulating authority act, Supreme Court replaced the Mayor's Court that
enacted by the charter of 1753 as it was consider very weak to maintain and
administer justice. The Supreme Court got the widespread jurisdiction as they
were eligible to try civil as well as criminal cases. Territorial jurisdiction
of the Supreme Court extend from Bengal to Bihar and Orissa, applicable over the
British subjects, their majesty and workers, employee whether directly or
Case above the monetary value of 500 rupees can directly came to Supreme Court
or could appeal after the decree by the diwani court established by the company.
But, Supreme Court was ineligible to try governor general in any case except the
charges of felony or treason. And also along with the judges of Supreme Court,
Governor General was immune to arrest.
Supreme Court can decide and try the case against the:
- The Mayor and Aldermen of Calcutta;
- Any of His Majesty's subjects residing within the provinces of Bengal,
Bihar and Orissa;
- Any person, who was employed by, or was directly or indirectly in the
service of, (i) The Company, (ii) The Corporation of Calcutta, or (iii) Any
of His Majesty's subjects;
- The Company; and
- Any inhabitant of Bengal, Bihar and Orissa, if
- He entered into any contract or agreement in writing;
- The other party to such a contract was His Majesty's subject;
- The cause of action exceeded five hundred rupee;
- The Indian inhabitant in this contract agreed that in case of dispute,
the matter would be determined in the Supreme Court of Judicature at Fort
The Supreme Court uses the Common law and equity jurisdiction both to decide the
case which make it more effective tool of judicial then the mayor's court.
Supreme Court empower as the superior court and had all right to control the
inferior courts, court of request and Court of quarter session held by the
justice of peace. That's why Supreme Court was also enriched with the power to
issue writs. There are 4 type of writs mentioned Certiorari, Mandamus,
Prohibition and writ of error.
There are lot of problems faced by the Indians and region of India because as
the stability to the judicial system also gave the strain to society. Supreme
Court did not faced any problem of jurisdiction alike the Mayor's Court that
produced the strain between the government and the Judicial System and use of
arbitrariness was also become the severe problem to the citizens and
jurisdiction increases the problem of the company's government.
However, this incident or the series of incidents setup the platform for the
Judicial System in the Bengal.
- Jain, M. (1956). Outlines of Indian Legal history. Delhi: Lawbook house.
- Choudhari, Mina(2006) . Glimpse of Justice System of presidencies town: Daya