Part 8 - Indian Legal History – East India Company Becomes Diwan of Bengal
Reality Views by sm -
In the beginning we have seen that East India Company started judicial system in the three presidency towns namely Calcutta, madras, and Bombay.
As company started its expansion in India, company started to take control of surrounding areas of Presidency Towns and this surrounding area was called as the Mofussil area.
East India Company started administrative system in the Mofussil areas and that administrative system was called as Adalat system.
Adalat system was introduced by the company to administer justice in the mofussil areas.
In the beginning company started adalat system in the year 1772 in Bengal, Bihar, and Orissa. later it was introduced in the mofussil of Bombay and Madras when company saw the good results in the Bengal .First the experiment was made in the Bengal and when successful it was introduced into the Bombay and Madras Mofussils
That time when Nawab Siraj –ud-daula saw the rising power of East India company in the Bengal , he attacked the Calcutta and captured the Calcutta in the year 1756
After this east India company under the leadership of Clive attacked the Calcutta and recaptured Calcutta in the year 1757
Same year Battle of Plassey was fought and Nawab was defeated.
After this real power in Bengal went to the company but company made the Mir Jafar the Nawab and gave him civil government.
When Calcutta council was dissatisfied with the performance of Mir Jafar as Nawab they replaced him , and Mir Kasim became the Nawab in the year 1760
In the year 1763, again Mir Jafar was made the Nawab.
In the year 1765 the minor son of Mir Jafar, Najam-ud-daula became the Nawab.
This way slowly east India Company increased its power in the Bengal.
Nawab of Bengal was just a puppet in the hands of East India Company. When company wanted, company changed the Nawab.
As company was supreme, why it did not declare itself was the ruler of Bengal?
There were few reasons. The first and most important reason was that that time British Constitutional law if No British Person can claim the sovereignty over any territory for himself, it must vest in crown and this way crown and parliament got the authority to legislate that area. The second reason that East India Company was afraid of French as well as Portuguese as they would create international problems for company as well as problems in the Bengal for company. Therefore, company took the easy way out, used Nawab as the Puppet, and controlled Bengal through him.
In the year 1765 Moghul Emperor Shah Alam granted to the company the diwani of Bengal , Bihar and Orissa
The company agreed to pay annually 26 lakh rupees to the Moghul Emperor and got right to keep the all-surplus amount of collected revenue.
The grant of the Diwani gave to the company a de jure status of an official of the Moghul Emperor.
The company was real controller but still company adopted this policy of not becoming direct ruler.
During the time of Moghul administration, Moghul Emperor appointed two persons in the province that is Subah; one was called as Nawab and second was Diwani.
Nawab or Nizam controlled the criminal justice system as well as military and maintained the law and order in the Province
Diwan or Diwani gave right to collect the revenue, and decide civil and revenue cases. Diwan send the collected revenue to the central authority or treasury
This way the power of divided between Nawab and Diwan and both acted and controlled each other
Nawab got the military but no money
Diwan got the money but no military so this way Moghul Emperor kept his control on both as none of them can become powerful than the Moghul Emperor.
Regarding Bengal, we can see that Nawab of Bengal was the Puppet of East India Company and Now East India Company became the Diwan of the Bengal.
Now again company made the agreement with the Nawab that he will not maintain the army and company will pay him an annual allowance of 53 lakh rupees for his expenditure and criminal judicature.
After this agreement, company became Supreme Authority regarding Bengal.
The nawab of Bengal also agreed that a Deputy Nawab will be appointed by the Calcutta government and Nawab will work as per his advice and Nawab cannot remove him from his post.
Thus East India Company got the responsibility of maintaining military, collecting revenue and civil justice, criminal justice was seen by deputy Nawab, and expenses regarding criminal justice were made through the allowance of Nawab.
After getting, the Diwani in the beginning company did not make any changes in the procedure of collecting revenue or civil justice as company was not aware how it functioned. Moreover, they were less in numbers.
The company appointed Mohammed Reza Khan at Murshidabad and Raja Shitab Roy at Patna to control the working of old system; they both were supervised by two English officers situated at Murshidabad and Patna.
Mohammed Reza khan was appointed as the Naib Nazim and he look after the administration of criminal justice system on behalf of Nawab.
As both these, two were reported to the East India Company they knew who the real master was so they never went against the Company servants.
Using them company officials made lot of money in a short period.
The east India company servants did the private business also and made more money.
In the year 1765, Clive became the Governor of Bengal and he himself described the situation of Bengal as follows. ‘I shall only say that such a scene of anarchy, confusion, bribery and corruption and extortion was never seen or heard of in any country but Bengal.
In this way Bengal was ruin by Bengal officials as well as East India company officials, everyone became the criminal and robbed the Bengal.
To improve these matters in the year 1769 Governor Verelst appointed company servants as supervisors in the districts. The supervisors were to collect information regarding condition of the soil, collection of land Revenue and administration of justice .They were to check the corruption and supervise the justice system. The supervision extended to practically on all the functions of Diwani.
The governor and council described the justice system as , corrupt bargain with the highest bidder
The proper procedure of maintaining records was started.
Kazis and Brahmins who administered the justice were given Sanads, which were duly registered so that non-authorized persons cannot give the justice.
However, the scheme of Supervisors failed as they were in less numbers and has to look after more work.
Majority times they also became corrupt.
In the year 1771 Bengal face the acute Famine and in that one fifth of the population was swept away. That time company saw reduction in the revenue collection. In addition, company officers blamed that Indian officers are doing more corruption. Therefore, Company as a diwan decided to take full charge of collection of revenue. The company officers just wanted to increase their corruption share so they brought this idea.
After this, Governor and Council at Calcutta were to become responsible for providing solutions for administrative problems.
This is the beginning of new judicial system in the Mofussil
That time judicial officers kazis were appointed not on the merit but matter of official favor.
Zamindars were also corrupt and ruled the villages as they wished.
Judicial officers did not get the salary so they use this power and did the corruption to make money.
There was no procedure established that time. Corruption was everywhere and honesty was sold everywhere.
To reform this entire situation Warren Hastings was called to formulate a scheme for the execution of functions of Diwani.
Warren Hastings Introduced new judicial administration system as well as revenue collection system in the year 1772
It laid the Foundation of Adalat system.
Suggested Reading –
Part 9 – Indian Legal History – Judicial Plan of Warren Hastings 1772 and 1774
28 March 2010
Part 8 - Indian Legal History – East India Company Becomes Diwan of Bengal