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Development of Judicial system during British India

Feb 12, 2018 18:46 IST
    Development of Judicial system during British India

    The Judicial System in India was neither adopted proper procedures nor had the proper organisation of the law court from the ancient India to Mughal India. The process of litigation in Hindu was served either by the caste elder or village Panchayats or zamindars whereas for Muslim Qazi supervise the litigation issues. If there were a discrepancy, the Rajas and Badshahs were considered as the fountainhead of the justice.

    The beginning of Indian codified common law is traced back to 1726 when a Mayor’s Court in Madras, Bombay and Calcutta was established by the East India Company. This was the first sign of Company’s transformation from a trading company to a ruling power with the added flavour of new elements of the Judiciary. The chronological development of the judiciary system during British India has been discussed below:

    1. Reforms under Warren Hastings (1772-1785 AD)

    Warren Hasting established, two court for resolving disputes –civil disputes for District Diwani Adalat and criminal disputes for District Fauzdari Adalats.

    District Diwani Adalat: It was established in districts to resolve the civil disputes which were placed under the collector. In this court Hindu law was applicable for Hindus and Muslim law for Muslim. If people seek more justice then they can move to Sadar Diwani Adalat which was functioned under a president and two members of Supreme Council.

    District Fauzdari Adalats: It was set up to resolved the criminal issues which were placed under an Indian officers assisted by Qazi and Muftis. The entire functioning of this court was administered by the collector. The Muslim law was administered in this court. But the approval of capital punishment and for the acquisition was given by the Sadar Nizamat Adalat which headed by a Deputy Nizam who was assisted by the chief Qazi and Chief Mufti.

    The formation Supreme Court at Calcutta under the Regulating Act of 1773 AD had original and appellate jurisdiction.

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    2. Reforms under Cornwallis (1786-1793 AD)

    Under Cornwallis, the District Fauzadari Court was abolished and Circuit Court was set at Calcutta, Decca, Murshidabad and Patna. It acts as a court of appeal for civil as well as criminal cases which was functioned under the European judges. He shifted Sadar Nizamat Adalat to Calcutta and put it under the supervision of Governor-General and the members of Supreme Council who were assisted by Chief Qazi and Chief Mufti. The District Diwani Adalat was renamed as District, City or the Zila Court which was functioned under a district judge.

    He also established gradation civil courts for both Hindu and Muslim such as Munsiff Court, Registrar Court, District Court, Sadar Diwani Adalat and King-in-Council. He is known for the establishment of sovereignty of law.

    3. Reforms under William Bentinck

    Under William Bentinck, the four Circuit Courts were abolished and transferred the functions of the abolished court to the collectors under the supervision of the commissioner of revenue and circuit. Sadar Diwani Adalat and Sadar Nizamat Adalat were established at Allahabad. He made the Persian and a Vernacular language for the court proceeding in lower court and made English language as official language for Supreme Court proceeding. During his reign, Law commission was set up by Macaulay which codified the Indian laws. On the basis of this commission, a civil Procedure Code of 1859, an Indian Penal Code of 1860, and a Criminal Procedure Code of 1861 were prepared.

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    4. Government of India Act 1935 

    The Government of India Act, 1935 changed the structure of the Indian Government from “unitary” to that of “federal” type. The distribution of powers between the Centre and the Provinces required the balance to avoid disputes, which would have arisen between the constituent units and the Federation. It also provided for the establishment of a Federal Court, which was set up in 1937 with appellate and advisory jurisdiction. Its appellate jurisdiction was extended to civil and criminal cases.

    Hence, we can say that initially Indian law was guided by the custom and religious book which was over the time evolve to the secular legal systems and the common law. It is noteworthy that the entire evolution of Indian judiciary was influenced by the ruling classes. For example- from ancient legal literature to Delhi Sultanate arbitration, then move to Mughal arbitration and finally despotic English (British).

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