08 May 2010

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Part 14 – Indian Legal History – Cornwallis and Plan of 1787

Part 14 – Indian Legal History – Cornwallis and Plan of 1787 –
Reality Views by sm -

In Short about Warren Hastings (1732-1818) –
Warren Hastings came to India as a clerk aged 16 and later became the Governor General of Bengal and British India.
Warren Hastings started reforming revenue administration and judicial system and he resigned in 1784. Burke campaigned for his impeachment. On corruption Charges Warren Hastings was tried in England for seven years and he got acquitted in 1795, but financially he lost everything.

Warren Hasting divided the functions of revenue and judiciary systems.
But many senior members of company did not like it and they thought separation is costly for company.
When Warren Hastings left India, they openly started to criticize this.
The court of directors on 12th April 1786 directed the Cornwallis to vest in one person the revenue, judicial, and magisterial functions.
Cornwallis followed the ordered and introduced plan of 1787.
In this plan Cornwallis increased the salaries of collectors.
2nd He reduced the number of Diwani districts from 36 to 23 and this made it possible to increase the salaries of collectors.
The scheme was introduced through 2 Regulations.
First Regulation dealt with Revenue Administration and it was introduced on 8th June 1787.
Second Regulation dealt with administration of justice and it was enacted on 27 June 1787.
In each district a company’s English covenanted servant was appointed as collector who will collect revenue as well as will decide the all cases relating to revenue. Collector also worked as Judge in the district mofussil diwani adalat to decide civil cases, succession cases and land related cases like boundaries etc.
Revenue Court was known as mal adalat
Appeals from mal adalat went to the Board of Revenue at Calcutta.
And finally to the Governor General
In Diwani adalat appeals in the cases where matters involving more than one thousand rupees went to the Sadar Diwani Adalat, where Governor General and council handled the cases.
Appeal from Sadar Diwani Adalats went to the King in Council.
In each adalat registrar was appointed as a subordinate officer to help collectors.
Registrar was given power to handle decide cases up to rupees 200 and orders passed by him became valid when it were signed by the judge of mofussil adalat.
As a magistrate collector was authorized to try and arrest criminals in petty offences.
The magistrate got power to hear the cases against the Englishmen who committed crimes against Indians, in this case magistrate made inquiry and he felt that there is ground for trial, he would send the Englishman accused to the Calcutta for trial and if Indian complainant was poor, the government paid all the expenses of traveling to Calcutta.

Criminal Justice system –
In 1790 Cornwallis tried to reform the criminal justice system which was following Muslim criminal law system and mofussil fozdari adalats were controlled by Kazis, muftis and moulvies.
Everything was controlled by Naib Nawab Raza khan and who was not answerable to anyone including Remembrancer.
The salaries of the criminal court judges were very low which encouraged them to get involved in the corruption.
Low salaried kept honest and educated people away from this job and every corrupt man wanted to become the criminal court judge.
Fozdari adalats did not give fast justice, it delayed the justice.
Delayed justice encourages criminals to do more crimes. As they do not fear the law.
Cornwallis wanted to reform all this and introduced the new scheme on 3rd December 1790.
Main Featured of the scheme of 1790
Criminal justice system – transferred to English servants from Muslim law officers.
Muslim law officers became advisors to the court.
And criminal cases should be decided quickly.
Districts got the magistrates, above them were Courts of Circuit and above them was Sadar Nizamat Adalat.
Sadar Nizamat Adalat was shifted to Calcutta from Murshidabad and Nawab was divested of his control over the adalat.
In Sadar Adalat Governor General and council members sat as judges and Muslim law officers helped them to understand the Muslim law.
Mofussil Fozdari adalats were abolished and on their place four court of circuits were established.
All districts in Bengal, Bihar and Orissa were arranged into four divisions of Patna, Calcutta, Murshidabad and Dacca.
Court of circuit was a moving court and it traveled from district to district in the given division.
Court of Circuit consisted of 2 companies covenanted servants and Muslim law officers help them.
The new criminal judicial system was inaugurated on January 1, 1791 and office of remembrance was abolished which was created in the time of Warren Hastings.

The salaries of the criminal court judges were increased and first time Governor General took the complete control of criminal justice system Bengal, Bihar and Orissa.
In 1792, company government sanctioned small sum as a payment to the prosecutors and witnesses who spent the days in court of circuit for their journey to attend the trials.
The criminals who completed the punishment, when came out of jail they were paid money to maintain themselves for a month.
Defects of Scheme –
Lot of work for court of circuits
No provision to supervise the collectors, who got unlimited powers

Cornwallis understood the defects of the above schemes and He introduced the plan of 1793

Continued –


Samarjit Roy May 08, 2010  

knowledge is power indeed !!!

chitra May 08, 2010  

thanks for the reply. I would wait for your post. Now I have saved these troubling nos. as advt1,2,like that. I am using Reliance.

sm,  May 09, 2010  


SM May 09, 2010