Case of Kamaluddin (1775)

Case of Kamaluddin (1775)

Introduction to the Case of Kamaluddin

The Kamaluddin’s case is related to a man ( holder of a salt farm) having been committed to prison in execution by the Calcutta Revenue Council of arrears of revenue due from him as a farmer of the revenue which he disputed and obtained the writ of Habeas Corpus from the Supreme Court to set him at liberty on bail.

{Habeas Corpus- It is a writ, through which a prisoner can be released from an unlawful detention, i.e. detention lacking sufficient cause/evidence. Habeas Corpus has historically been an important instrument to safeguard individual freedom against the arbitrary powers. This writ is known as the “great and efficacious writ in all manner of illegal confinement”.}

Background of the case

The Kamaluddin case of 1775 reflects a very necessary and needed question relating to the jurisdiction of the apex court (Supreme Court) over the acts of East India company’s servant working in the capacity of the collectors of revenue. This case basically discloses the defective provisions of the Regulating act of 1773 due to which the Supreme Court and Supreme Council came into conflict. It represents the first open difference of opinion between the court and the government over the question of the court’s control over the Diwani rights.

{Regulating Act of 1773 was an act of parliament of Great Britain which intended to overhaul the management of the East India Company’s rule in India and through this act a Governor General and four council members were appointed for the Presidency of Calcutta and the Governor General council was given all the powers to extent company’s territorial acquisition in India. Further section 13 of the Regulating act of 1775 empowered the crown to establish a Supreme Court of Judicature at Fort William, Calcutta}

Facts of the case

  • Kamaluddin a farmer of Hugli (which falls under the undivided district of Medinipur, Bengal) was in arrears of rent in 1775.
  • The revenue council released orders to arrest Kamaluddin without bail.
  • He approached the Supreme Court for obtaining a writ of habeas corpus and the court stated-

“In case of disputed accounts the defendant should be provided bail till the inquiry regarding his obligation to pay was completed and he is held liable”

Which means that in all the disputed cases regarding arrears, the defendant should be provided with bail until full inquiry is done and it is to be made sure whether he is liable to pay or not.

  • The court gave bail till the enquiry as his obligation to pay was completed.
  • The court further directed the council to accept the bail for Kamaluddin’s appearance in the Diwani court and not to take him into the custody until his under renter had been called upon to pay the rent.
  • But, the council did not listened to the court and regarded the court’s order as an encroachment to the company’s Diwani rights. And stated that according to the 1773 Act, the court had no authority to take cognizance of any matter relating to revenue and the court’s proceedings in the release of Kamaluddin exceeded its jurisdiction and were against the law as these rights were solely with the Council and the Governor General.
  • The council therefore ordered the provincial council to re-arrest Kamaluddin and pay no attention to the order of Supreme Court.
  • Three out of four members from the council voted against the order of the court but the suggestion of the majority could not put into practice because Governor Warren Hastings hesitated and did not support the defiance of court’s order as the chief justice at that time was his friend Justice Impey. Hence he didn’t want to disregard the court’s order.
  • But, sometime later Kamaluddin was arrested many a times and he again obtained the writ of habeas corpus and was finally discharged by the court.
  • The Chief Justice Elijah Impey in a letter to the court of Directors justified the court’s action on 2 grounds-
    • 1) Firstly, it is a part of usual Practice
    • 2) Secondly, refusal of being accused of assuming jurisdiction over revenue cases as such.
  • Impey also stated that the court is not interfering on the management and procedure of revenues, because the concept and dealing of revenue collection is a different matter than the matter on arrears of rent which comes under the court’s jurisdiction. Further, he also stated that the Supreme Court will be guilty of Breach of Trust if the court denies to take any step against the cases of violence and oppression in the collection of revenues.
  • Hence, Kamaluddin was not held guilty and was finally discharged by the court of law.


This case talks about the differences of the opinion between the Supreme Council and the Supreme Court which created lot of conflicts between the two. This case was an eye-opener which disclosed the defective provisions of the Regulating Act due to which not only the Supreme Council and Supreme Court came into conflict and dispute but also the gulf between the 3 members of the Supreme Council and the Governor-General Warren Hastings and this gulf became wider and wider.

The conflict became more violent from later along with bringing out the inside work of the Governor General Warren Hastings and his dear fried Chief Justice Elija Impey.

Other cases along with Kamaluddin’s which brought about the defects of the Regulating Act of 1773 were-

Although, the aims and objective of the farmers of the Regulating Act were really very good but still many defects came to light subsequently.

They were either due to the defective drafting of the provisions of the Regulating Act of 1773 or due to the inexperience of the policy makers in Indian affairs which brought such conflict between the Supreme Council and the Supreme Court and also the Governor General Warren Hastings and the members of his council.

Author: Naina Pathak,
Amity University Madhya Pradesh, 2nd year

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