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Administration of Justice in Madras, Bombay, Calcutta (1600-1726)

Madras:
It was developed in three stages.
They are:
Stage I:    1639 – 1678
Stage II:   1678 – 1683
Stage III:  1683 – 1726

1639 – 1678:
In 1639, an Englishman, Francis Day acquired a piece of land from Hindu Raja of Chandragiri, for the East India Company.  It was known as Madraspatnam.  The company constructed a factory on this land called FORT ST. GEORGE in 1640.  This Fort was known as WHITE TOWN.  While the nearby villages inhabited by local population was called BLACK TOWN.

Agent And Council:
In the White Town, the agent and council were authorised to decide both civil and criminal cases of English people residing at Fort St. George.  Judiciary was vague.  So they referred the cases to England.

Choultry Court:
The primitive and native Choultry Court functioned there.  This court was presided with a native judicial officer called ADIKARI.  It have not tried serious offences like murder but tried other cases only.

Governor And Council:
By the Charter of 1661, the company was empowered to appoint Governor and Council to decide civil and criminal cases of all persons of the company.  English rule was followed.

1678 – 1683:
High Court of Judicature:

The Governor reorganised the whole judicial system in 1678.  They sat twice a week and tried civil and criminal cases with the help of 12 juries.  They tried appeals from the Choultry Court.

Choultry Court:
Old Choultry Court was reconstituted.  Adikari was replaced by three English Officers.  They sat twice a week and tried all civil cases up to the value of 50 pagodas.  Their decision was appealable to the GOVERNOR IN COUNCIL.

1683 – 1726:
Admiralty Court:
This court was established in Madras in 1686 by the Charter of 1683 headed by JUDGE ADVOCATE.  It consisted of one person learned in civil law and two merchants appointed by the company.  The court decided,
all cases of mercantile or maritime nature, trespass, injuries and wrongs committed on high seas, forfeiture and seizure of ships or goods.

This court applied the rules of equity, good conscience and the laws and customs of merchants.  This court becomes the general court of the city for all practical purposes in setting all civil and criminal cases.  This court functioned till 1704.

Mayors's Court:
The company’s Charter of 1687 established a Mayor’s Court at Madras.  It consisted of a Mayor, twelve Aldermen and sixty or more Burgesses.  The first Mayor and Aldermen were nominated by the Charter.  The Mayor holds office for one year.  Aldermen elected the Mayor annually.  The Mayor and Aldermen selected Burgesses whose strength was not to exceed 120.  The Mayor and three Aldermen were to be English servants of the company and others were to be from any nation.


A man learned law called Recorder was attacked to Mayor’s Court.  (Court of reward).  The Mayor court tried,
All civil cases up to the value of 3 pagodas
All criminal cases with the help of jury and punished the offenders by fine or imprisonment.

Appeals were allowed to the Admiralty Court.  In civil matters, the Admiralty Court had decided more than the value of 3 pagodas.  In criminal cases, it had decided when the punishment was to lose life or limbs.
Appeals from the Mayor’s Court and Admiralty Court were heard by Governor and Council.

The Charter of 1726 established Mayor’s Court at Madras, Bombay and Calcutta consisted of a Mayor and 9 Aldermen.  Mayor and 7 Aldermen were to be English and the rest were subjects of princely Indian States friendly with Britain.  The Mayor holds office for one year.  The Aldermen hold office for lifelong.  Every year the outgoing Mayor and Aldermen elected a new Mayor out of the Aldermen.  The Mayor and Aldermen filled up the vacancy of Aldermen from among the inhabitants of the Presidency Town.  The Governor in Council could dismiss the Aldermen on reasonable ground.

This court tried only civil matters.  It granted probation of wills and letters of administration in case of intestate.  During the proceedings the parties were required to take oath produce and examine witnesses and plead their cases.

Sheriff was appointed by Governor and Council.  It is his duty to produce the defendant in the court if a written complaint was filed by an aggrieved party.  He executed judgments as in English Law.
Governor in Council heard appeals from the Mayor’s Courts up to the value of 1000 pagodas.

Privy Council:
If the value of the suit was more than 1000 pagodas a second appeal was permitted to this court.

Administration of Justice in Presidencies:
Justice of Peace:

The Governor and 5 senior members of the Council would have criminal jurisdiction and would be justice of peace.

Some cases were finalized in these courts:
Arab Merchant’s Case:
An Arab Merchant brought a suit in the Mayor’s Court for the recovery of the valuable pearls which were alleged to have been escorted from him by a man who saved him from the burning boat at the coast of Gujarat.  The Mayor’s Court consulted the Governor in Council.  The Governor upheld the jurisdiction of the Mayor’s Court.  It suggested the Mayor’s Court not to try the case as the defendant had been previously hired for piracy regarding the same occurrence and acquitted.

The Mayor’s Court ignored this and decreed the suit.  This was reversed by the Governor.

Hindu Woman’s Case: (1730)
A 12 year old boy (Hindu) left his mother and began to live with his relatives, since his mother became Roman Catholic in Bombay.  The mother filed a suit for the custody of the boy in the Mayor’s Court.  The Court ordered the relatives to hand over the boy to his mother.  On a complaint filed by the head of the caste, the Governor in Council held that the Mayor’s Court had no power to decide cases of religious nature or caste disputes of the natives.  The Governor removed the Mayor from his office.

Pagoda Oath Case:
In Madras, Hindus gave evidence in the Court on Bhagwad Geetha Oath.  Two Hindu Merchants were put to jail by the Mayor’s Court for refusing to take the pagoda oath which they said was contrary to their religion and the rules of the castle.  This made the Hindu Residents very furious and they approach the Governor to interfere.  So Governor released those merchant on parole.  At the same time the Court was directed to pay regard to the religious rites and ceremonies of the natives.

Re-electing as Mayor Case:
In 1734, a conflict arose over the Mayor’s re-election.  Naish was re-elected as Mayor but the Governor refused to allow him to take the Oath of Office on the ground that an outgoing Mayor could not be re-elected under the Charter of 1726.  Ultimately another Mayor was to be elected.

Mayor and Secretary Betting Case:
Terrain the Secretary to the Madras Government and Mayor Naish met at a dinner party and entered into a bet which Naish lost and refused to pay.  Terrain sued him in the Mayor’s Court which ruled that Mayor was immune from prosecution.  The Government later complained that its secretary had been treated with indignity by the Court.

Bombay:
It was under the control of the Portuguese from 1534 onwards.  Portuguese King gave it as a dowry to Charles II of England when he married the formers sister in 1661.  King leased it to the company.  The Judicial Administration developed in three stages.  They are:
Stage I:    1668 – 1683
Stage II:   1684 – 1690
Stage III:  1718 – 1726

1668 – 1683:
Judicial Reforms of 1670:
Gerald Aungier reorganised the old judicial setup of Bombay and all laws were classified into six sections.  They are:
related to the freedom of worship and religious believes
impartial administration of justice
establishment of a court of Judicature to decide all criminal cases and for the appointment of justice of peace and order, to arrest criminals
registration of transactions concerning sale of land and houses
contained miscellaneous provisions dealt with penalties for different crimes
military discipline and prevention of disorder and revolt. Bombay was divided into two divisions.  Each division had a court of five Judges.  The customs officer of each division, an Englishman presided this court.

Quorum of this Court: Three Judges
They sat once a week and tried petty civil and criminal cases up to the value of two xerophins (A Portuguese coin equal to nearly Rs. 7.50).

New Judicial Plan of 1672:
All cases were tried according to English Law.
Central Court of Judicature was established and presided by a single Judge – sat once a week and tried all civil, criminal and testamentary cases.
Justice of Peace – Bombay was divided into four divisions.  Each headed by an Englishman called Justice of Peace.
He acted as committing magistrate, recorded the necessary proceedings and sent the accused to the Court of Judicature for trial.
The appellate authority was Deputy Governor and Council.

Court of Conscience was established.  It sat once a week.  It decided petty cases summarily without charging fees from the litigants.

1684 – 1690:
Admiralty Court was established which was similar to that of Madras.

1718 – 1726:
Court of Judicature:
It consisted of a Chief Justice and nine Judges.  The Chief Justice and five Judges were to be English.  Others were to be of any other nation.  The quorum was three English Judges.  This court sat once a week and tried all civil, criminal, testamentary cases as per law, equity, good conscience and rules and ordinance of the company from time to time.

Appeal was heard by the Governor and Council.
Calcutta:
In 1690, the English Merchants founded a settlement at Sutanati, a site where future Calcutta developed.  In 1698, they secured Zamindari rights over Sutanati, Calcutta and Gobindpur.  The company established Fort William at Calcutta in 1700.  Calcutta became a Presidency with the Governor and Council to manage its affairs.  A member of the Council was appointed as Collector to act as Zamindar on behalf of the company in 1700.

Faujdari Court:
The Collector decided criminal cases of the natives of three villages – Sutanati, Gobindpur and Calcutta.  The criminals were punished by whipping, imposing fines, imprisonment, banishment or work on roads.  Capital punishment was given only after confirmation by the Governor in Council.

Justice administered by Local Zamindars:

Each Zamindar (Collectors) held a cutcherry or Adalat and decided all civil cases according to the customs of the country.  Appeals from this Court lay to the Nawab’s Court at Murshidabad.  Death sentences had to be confirmed by the Nawab who is a native governor during the time of the Mughal empire.

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