The History Behind The Establishment Of Supreme Court In India In 1950
India's Supreme Court is the apex court of appeal as per the Indian
Constitution. India consists of a federal system of governance which has a
three-tier structure with the Supreme Court at the top, the High Court in the
middle and the District/Session Court at the grassroot level. India also
harbours a single and unified judicial system. The judiciary acts as an
interpreter of the constitution and is an independent organ of the government.
Mayor Courts Of India
The evolution of the present-day Supreme Court began in 1726. The Charter of
1726 led to the introduction of Mayor's Courts in India. These courts were set
up in Calcutta, Madras and Bombay. Till 1726, the East India Company had no
power to manage Capital Offences and Capital Punishments and the Company only
possessed Civil Jurisdiction in these Presidencies. King George issued this
Charter on 24th September 1726. The Charter was issued to the East India
Company. Mayors Courts were specially commissioned to undertake the task of
hearing cases against the Company.
A necessity was felt to establish the Mayor Courts because different judicial
systems were operating in British India and as a result, different settlements
were controlled as per separate rules. All this culminated in a lack of
uniformity in the Justice System and the same offense harboured different
punishments at different settlements. In addition to this, the absence of a
Competent Court in India that could replace all the other courts further
necessitated the establishment of a competent authority in the form of Mayor
First Supreme Court Of India
The East India Company was facing a huge financial crisis by the late 18th
Century. It was indebted both to the bank of England and the government of
England. The introduction of the Regulation Act in 1773 envisaged revamping the
entire administration system of the East India Company. This Act can also be
seen as the first move towards the control of Indian governance post-1858.
It also furnished a revamped administration system for the Company. An essential
feature of this Act is the transformation of the Governor of Bengal into the
Governor-General of all the Indian territories of the company.
The governors of the other two Presidencies were made subordinate to the
Governor General. He handled a four member council which was empowered to make
any rules, regulations and ordinances for efficient and effective governance.
Hence this Act established the foundation of central administration in India.
Another vital provision of this Act was the setting up of a Supreme Court at
Establishment Of High Courts
In the Presidency towns of Bombay, Madras and Calcutta, two different systems
were prevailing for dispensing justice. They were the Sadar Diwani Adalat and
the Sadar Nizamat Adalat on one hand and the Supreme Court on the other hand.
The co-habitation of both these systems was problematic for the residents of
these Presidencies because they often clashed and conflicted with each other.
Ultimately, the introduction of the Indian High Courts Act in 1861 by the
British Parliament, brought a solution to this problem.
This Act had only 19 sections and it led to the abolition of the Sadar Diwani
Adalats and the Supreme Court in the Presidencies. All the archives and records
of the courts so abolished became the records and documents of the concerned
All the appeals from the Indian High court went to the Privy Council. But
approaching the Privy Council demanded enormous expenses and was also extremely
time-consuming. Thus, a need was felt to establish a Court of superior authority
and this need was fulfilled by the establishment of Federal Court in India. A
joint select committee of the House of Lords, as well as the House of Commons of
the Parliament of Britain, was set up in November 1934 and it advised setting up
a Federal Court.
Accordingly, the Government of India Act was passed in 1935, and Section 200 of
this Act held the provision for building a Federal Court in India. The seat of
the Federal Court was in the Parliament building located in Delhi. Sir Maurice
Linford Gwyer was appointed as its 1st chief justice. After the setting up of
the Federal Court, the workload of the Privy Council was reduced and the time
and expenses of the litigants also diminished.
Establishment Of Present Day Supreme Court Of India
Till 1950, the Federal Court operated for about 12 years, after which, the
Supreme Court of India was established. The "Abolition of the Privy Council
Jurisdiction Act, 1949" led to the establishment of the Supreme Court of
independent India. It was on 28 January 1950, that the Supreme Court sat for the
very first time.
The law declared by the Supreme Court is binding on all Courts in India. A
feature unique to the Supreme Court is that it is empowered to exercise the
function of judicial review which enables it to strike down the Acts passed by
the organs of the government if such laws are "ultra vires" to the provisions of
the Indian Constitution.
The Supreme Court of Judicature was set up at Calcutta under the provisions of
the Regulating Act of 1773. It was a Court of Record and possessed full
authority and power to administer justice. It was empowered to hear cases
relating to all the offences and was free to determine any criminal or civil
case in the states of Bengal, Bihar and Orissa. King George - III led to the
establishment of the Supreme Courts. The Supreme Courts at Madras was
established in 1800 and the Supreme Court at Bombay was established by in 1823.
The India High Courts Act 1861 set up various High Courts for several provinces.
It abolished Supreme Courts as well as the Sadar Adalats and Sadar Nizamats. The
High Court held the power of being the highest court of justice in India till
1935 when the Government of India Act was introduced in 1935. An essential
feature of this Act was the setting up of a Federal Court in India.
The Federal Court held the jurisdiction to solve conflicts between federal
states and provinces and decide on the appeals from the judgments of High Courts
or cases involving the question of law. India finally attained independence on
15 August 1947 and the Constitution of India came into existence on 26 January
1950. The Supreme Court of India also came into being in 1950 and on 28 January
1950, its very first sitting was held.
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