It was developed in three stages.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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
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
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
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
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
The Mayor’s Court ignored this and decreed the suit. This was reversed by the
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
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.
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.
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.
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.