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Judicial System of Calcutta under East India Company

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 Supreme Court.

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 indirectly appointed.

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 William.
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.

Works Cited:
  • Jain, M. (1956). Outlines of Indian Legal history. Delhi: Lawbook house.
  • Choudhari, Mina(2006) . Glimpse of Justice System of presidencies town: Daya Books.

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