07 February 2010

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Know the Indian Legal History – Part Two

Know the Indian Legal History – Part Two -

When Company started its business with East India, that time also in Europe, British, Spanish, Dutch and Portugal all were fighting with each other regarding the business, as well as to keep control over the sea.

I am not going into those wars and those details.
Final result is only important, who won the war.

In early days company got only business factories or stations at various places without territorial sovereignty.

Company first started business at Surat, Agra, Ahmadabad, and Broach, and Surat factory become the main head office.

In the year 1639 first Time Company got the power and right to mint money and govern Madras on condition that half the customs and revenues of port should be paid to the grantor.

In the year 1658 company paid 380 pagodas as king’s shares. Later In 1672 the amount was increased to 1,200 pagodas and Company first time got the full unrestricted power and control over Madras including justice . Later company added more villages with the same rights.

In 1752, company got full control over Madras and that remaining India was controlled by Muslim or Hindu kings.

In 1698 the Company purchased at the cost of 1,200 rupees a year the right of zamindar over the three villages of Sutanati, Calcutta, and Govindpur. The fortified factory was named Fort William in honor of the King, and in 1700 became the seat of a presidency.

By giving Bribe, company got complete control over all three villages including Hindu as well as Muslim people, indirectly company became owner, ruler of those villages.

Like this company got full power at their 3 towns Madras, Bombay, and Calcutta which were came to be known as Presidency Towns.

With Presidency Towns our Judicial History started to grow.

In the beginning at Presidency towns, the judicial system was their only to administer the Englishmen, and as towns made progress population of Hindu and Muslim people grew.
And company has to make the adjustments, changes to administer these people in their English Legal System.

Presidency Town Madras Judiciary –

1. From 1639 to 1665 Judiciary Elementary State

2. From 1665 to 1686 – Court of Governor and Council was established

3. From 1686 to 1726 - Admiralty Court and Mayors Court was established.

Period One - From 1639 to 1665 Judiciary Elementary State –
Madras was founded by Francis Day in 1639 who got grant from Hindu Raja and company build first Fort, factory which is known as Fort st.George.

Near the fort there was a village Madraspatnam on which also company got full power and right .this town later became Black Town and Inside factory town where British lived became white town and these both towns came to be known as Madras.

Madras was subordinate to Surat that time.
Head of Madras Town was called as an Agent.
Madras is the first Presidency Town of company.

During this period company agent did not do anything to change the justice system of black village, headman of black village did the justice for the black village.

No formal procedure was their, very few cases are reported but very interesting case happened in 1644 .

A sergeant Bradford Killed a native from Black town and company agent did not try him and but they gave the case to the black town Head and who found that death is caused by Accident .

That time normally Agent referred the cases as per importance to the headman or the Raja or sent the report to the England regarding criminal or serious crimes.

Period Two - From 1665 to 1686 – Court of Governor and Council was established
Charter of 1661 gave judicial power to the Governor and Council not to the Agent.
To try serious cases like murder agent was not entitled and he referred those cases to England, but in the Year 1665 Company made changes and the agent of Madras became the Governor of Madras.
So he can use all the powers given by the charter of 1661 which became effective in black town as well as white town. That is Madras.

In the year 1665 first jury trial was held with the help of grand and petty juries which involved six Englishmen and five Portuguese none of them was studied in law.

So quality of law and justice and procedure was poor, the Madras Governor informed the company head office in England regarding this but company did not send any lawyer to Madras from England.
That time also in criminal trials , the accused has to wait long to get their trial started as governor and Council was not aware about English Law so they always waited ,consulted to the Company Head office which was in the England .

On record there are cases
One Englishman killed other Englishman and the accused has to stay in jail for 31 months, without trial as Governor consulted the case to England Head office.

The governor and council of Madras were afraid that they may commit mistake regarding English law or trial and other reasons, the problems started to grew in Madras Presidency and people started to think that reform was needed .

In 1678 Governor decided to hold weekly two days court to try all the cases as per English Law with the help of Jury of 12 men.

This court was designated as High Court of Judicature and was inaugurated on March 27, 1678.

After this choultry Court was also reorganized, choultry court – village head administered Justice.
After reorganization company servants took the charge, mint master, customer or pay master and presence of two was compulsory they hold the court 2 times weekly and tried matters upto 50 pagodas.

Pagoda was a gold coin valuing 3 rupees.

All the appeals went to Governor and Jury, this way first time a hierarchy of court was established in Madras.

Third Period - 3. From 1686 to 1726 - Admiralty Court and Mayors Court was established at Madras 

On August 9 1683, Charlas II granted charter to the company to establish the courts which was to consist of person learned in the Civil law and two merchants appointed by the company.
The court got the power to hear and try the cases related with the mercantile, maritime, trespass, injury and wrongs etc.

Again on April 12, 1686 Charlas II issued a new charter with same provisions.
In 1683 mercantile law was not fixed but it was based on customs of merchants and Roman law not common law of England.

The chief judge of the admiralty Court was known as the Judge –Advocate.
After this charter on 10th July 1686 in Madras a Court of Admiralty was started which was consisted of three civil servants.

In 1687 company sent from England Sir John Biggs a professional lawyer learned in civil law to act as the judge advocate of Admiralty Court.

After this Governor and Council stopped to use their Judicial Functions.
And admiralty Court started to give justice in all cases civil, criminal as well as maritime. The court used Jury in criminal cases and not in the civil cases.
Importance - First time in India a professional lawyer came who was studied in civil law and most important thing is Executive gave up Judicial Function.
Executive means Governor and his Council.

Sir Biggs Died in 1689. And Governor again took the charge of judicial function.
Governor became the judge advocate.
And one Hindu and one Armenian were selected to assist the admiralty court regarding respective communities.

In 1692 Company sent John Dolben as new judge advocate and in 1694 he was dismissed on the charge of taking bribes.

Then willliam Fraser a civil servant became the Judge advocate .

In 1696 company directed that members of the council should in succession serve as the judge advocate . 

After Fraser , a merchant was appointed as judge advocate later he resigned and no one was ready to become the judge advocate, so company made the court registrar , judge advocate He left for England in 1704 and it was decided that office should remain vacant . After 1704 admiralty court ceased to sit on regular basis.

Interesting case – 

In 1694 company brought a case suit against Elihu Yale the ex- governor of Madras who extorted 50000 Rupees from merchants.
Beginning of Corruption by Executive.
So it is our tradition and religion to do corruption in India from olden times.

End of Part – 2
Continued :

Reality Views by sm –

Below is the link for Part One –


Suggested Reading - Indian Legal History Part 3 - 1688 - Madras Mayors Court 



Julia,  February 07, 2010  

waiting for the next part
great post

Neha February 08, 2010  

hey SM, I was waiting for part two..these details - i was not aware of at all..thank u for sharing :)

sm,  February 09, 2010  

R. Ramesh,

sm,  February 11, 2010  


robby,  April 27, 2013  

Thanks for sharing..it was helpful....

Gayatri February 21, 2019  

Thanks a lot for this usefull information.