Judicial Reforms under Warren Hastings (1772-1785)

• District Diwani Adalats were established in districts to try civil disputes. These adalats were placed under the collector and had Hindu law applicable for Hindus and the Muslim law for Muslims. The appeal from District Diwani Adalats lay to the Sadar Diwani Adalat which functioned under a president and two members of the Supreme Council.

• District Fauzdari Adalats were set up to try criminal disputes and were placed under an Indian officer assisted by qazis and muftis. These adalats also were under the general supervision of the collector. Muslim law was administered in Fauzdari Adalats. The approval for capital punishment and for acquisition of property lay to the Sadar Nizamat Adalat at Murshidabad which was headed by a deputy nizam (an Indian Muslim) assisted by chief qazi and chief mufti.

• Under the Regulating Act of 1773, a Supreme Court was established at Calcutta which was competent to try all British subjects within Calcutta and the subordinate factories, including Indians and Europeans. It had original and appellate jurisdictions. Often, the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court clashed with that of other courts.

Reforms under Cornwallis (1786-1793)—Separation of Powers

• The District Fauzdari Courts were abolished and,instead, circuit courts were established at Calcutta, Dacca,Murshidabad and Patna. These circuit courts had Europeanjudges and were to act as courts of appeal for both civil and criminal cases.

• The Sadar Nizamat Adalat was shifted to Calcutta and was put under the governor-general and members of the Supreme Council assisted by the chief qazi and the chief mufti.

• The District Diwani Adalat was now designated as the District, City or the Zila Court and placed under a district judge. The collector was now responsible only for the revenue administration with no magisterial functions.

• A gradation of civil courts was established (for both Hindu and Muslim laws)—

(i) Munsiff’s Court under Indian officers,

(ii) Registrar’s Court under a European judge,

(iii) District Court under the district judge,

(iv) Four Circuit Courts as provincial courts of appeal,

(v) Sadar Diwani Adalat at Calcutta, and

(vi) King-in-Council for appeals of 5000 pounds and above.

• The Cornwallis Code was laid out—

o There was a separation of revenue and justice administration.

o European subjects were also brought under jurisdiction.

o Government officials were answerable to the civil courts for actions done in their official capacity.

o The principle of sovereignty of law was established.


Reforms under William Bentinck(1828-1833)

• The four Circuit Courts were abolished and their functions transferred to collectors under the supervision ofthe commissioner of revenue and circuit.

• Sadar Diwani Adalat and a Sadar Nizamat Adalat wereset up at Allahabad for the convenience of the people ofUpper Provinces.

• Till now, Persian was the official language in courts.Now, the suitor had the option to use Persian or a vernacularlanguage, while in the Supreme Court, English languagereplaced Persian.

• 1833: A Law Commission was set up under Macaulayfor codification of Indian laws. As a result, a Civil ProcedureCode (1859), an Indian Penal Code (1860) and a CriminalProcedure Code (1861) were prepared.

Later Developments

• 1860: It was provided that the Europeans can claimno special privileges except in criminal cases, and no judgeof an Indian origin could try them.

• 1865: The Supreme Court and the Sadar Adalats weremerged into three High Courts at Calcutta, Bombay andMadras.

• 1935: The Government of India Act provided for aFederal Court (set up in 1937) which could settle disputesbetween governments and could hear limited appeals fromthe High Courts.

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