History Notes

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Selected Documents on Eighteenth Century Anglo-Indian Legal History

Constitutional documents:

These documents have been drawn from the excellent collection published in 19th-century Madras: 

J. Shaw, Charters relating to the East India Company from 1600-1761, (Madras: Madras government press, 1887).   * The East India Company Charter of 1600    
* The East India Company Charter of 1661 This new charter, issued by Charles II on his restoration, included provisions for the EIC to hold universal territorial jurisdiction in its Indian settlements. It called for the governor and council of each EIC factory and settlement to have complete judicial authority over all EIC personnel, and more importantly, over all persons living in their territory regardless of origin,  i.e.. “...power to judge all persons belonging to the said governor and company or that shall live under them," and that the Laws of England would have to be applied  "...in all causes, whether civil or criminal” (p.44). Charter establishing the Corporation of Madras and the first Mayor's Court (1687) * This charter, issued by the Company itself, not the Crown, established a town corporation at Madras with Aldermen and Burgesses drawn from every community in the city. The records of this first Mayor's Court are sparse though their proceedings from June-December 1689 and 1716-19 are available online in their entirety here. [UMichigan] The charter of 1726 establishing the first Royal courts in India * This Crown charter replaced the Mayor's Court in Madras and the ad hoc courts in Bombay and Calcutta with a new set of English legal institutions. The charter of 1753 revising that of 1726 and restricting access to the Royal Courts. * The revised charter of 1753 largely maintained the 1726 system of English courts but added a court of requests for petty disputes and, most importantly, prevented suits between "natives of India" from being heard in the Mayor's Court. The Letters Patent of the new Supreme Court of Judicature at Calcutta (1774) * This is the founding charter of the first Anglo-Indian court to feature professional common law judges. It was established by order of Parliament in the Regulating Act of 1773 (13 George III c.63).   Selected Reported Cases:(extracted from legal reporters and other sources)   Skinner v. East India Company (1666) [6 State Trials 709-770] * This case, while primarily famous for it's role in determining the balance of power between the King and Parliament, also shows contemporary legal thought on the relationship of the EIC's settlements in India to metropolitan law. In brief the case revolved around Skinner, an English spice merchant, who went to the House of Lords in an attempt to receive damages from the EIC for seizing a warehouse and island from him in the East Indies. The House of Lords referred the petition to the primary common law court of the land, the King's Bench. The learned justices of the King's Bench gave it as their opinion that such matters “beyond the seas” could not be cognizable in the metropolitan courts. -------------------------------------------------

SETTLEMENTS: SURAT, MADRAS, BOMBAY AND CALCUTTA
Presidencies in British India, also known as Provinces of India, included certain important areas of jurisdiction which were under direct control of the British East India Company from the beginning of the British rule and after 1857. The 3 major Presidencies in British India were The Bombay Presidency, Madras Presidency and Bengal Presidency. The Agra Presidency was one of the 6 Northwestern Provinces of British India. These Presidencies were administered directly under the crown of Queen Victoria (and following monarchs) who ascended the British throne. There were a number of different ways by which British India was sought to be controlled. Beginning from East India Company ruling, when the country was basically looked as the eastern magical land...
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