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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 Courts.

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 Calcutta.

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 High Courts.

Federal Court

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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