Indian Legal History

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A great step was taken in the Indian legal history when the supreme court of judicature was created at Calcutta under the regulating act of 1773. Bengal, Bihar and Orissa were in the grip of confusion, chaos and anarchy after the battle of plassey. The company’s servants exploited the people, amassed the wealth and returned to England. All servants high or low suffered from one obsession only how to achieve easy fortune in India and return to England as soon as possible. These people led a life completely out of tune with the prevailing social moves .The newly enriched ex-servants of the company dabbled in British politics by purchasing with their ill gotten money seats in the House of Commons and thus offended the landed aristocracy. They purchased stock of the company and sought to influence its policies. In the meanwhile, the news of the famine led the British public suspect that something was palpably wrong with the company’s affairs in Bengal. A realization was dawning on the British politicians that the company was no longer a mere commercial body, but it had assumed the character of a political and territorial power in India. As was commented by Edmund Burke:.. “The east India Company did not seem to be merely a company for the extension of British commerce, but in reality a delegation of the whole power and sovereignty of this kingdom sent into the east”.

Therefore it was being realized that the company should not be left alone outside the sphere of the parliamentary control. Public opinion was thus slowly crystallizing in favour of the parliamentary interventions of the company’s affairs.

The climax of the whole affair was reached when due to its financial embarrassment the company had to approach the British government for a big loan. The paradox of the whole situation was that while its servants were getting richer, the company itself was fast getting into financial difficulties. Its shareholders voted increased dividends for themselves from 1767; it was required to pay a tribute of four lakh pounds every year to the British exchequer in consideration retaining its territorial acquisitions and revenues. According to Ilbert, this was the state’s share of the “Indian spoil” . In the prevailing atmosphere, the British government could not possibly give a loan to the company without probing into its affairs. Therefore, a select committee and a secret committee were appointed by the House of Commons for this purpose. In a number of condemnatory reports, these committees exposed the defects and the deficiencies prevailing in the existing structure. These reports “drove home the conviction that the independence of the company must yield to the supremacy of the parliament” and thereby parliament consequently enacted the regulating Act, 1773, to remove the evils of the prevailing system. The Act modified the constitution of the company and subjected it, to some extent, to the control of British government and parliament, reorganized the Calcutta government and established the Supreme Court at Calcutta. With the passage of this Act, era of royal charters gave place to the era of parliamentary enactments. Henceforth, parliament enacted a number of Acts, the era of royal charters gave place to the era of parliamentary enactments. Henceforth, parliament enacted a number of Acts, usually one Act at an interval of twenty years each, to renew the company’s charter. On each occasion the affairs of the company were subjected to close investigation and security and each time the authority of the crown and parliament was tightened over the company.

The Supreme Court At Fort William _ Calcutta:
An important innovation made by the Regulating Act, 1773, was that on March 26, 1774, King George (III) issued a charter for the creation of the Supreme Court of Judicature at Calcutta superseding the judicial System prevalent there under the charter of 1753 which did not provided for the due administration of Justice...
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