The Charter of 1726 – Uniform Judicial System


As we know the Mughals ruled over our country, India for more than 200 years, and during the reign of Jehangir, it was the first time when East India Company was allowed to traders on Indian land. The Britishers came to India in 1600 as traders in the form of The East India Company and started executing their work in harmony with the Mughals. The Company started establishing its trading centers or factories in several places in India. The first settlement of the company was at Surat (1612) which was established as a result of a Royal “Firman” from Emperor Jehangir granting it land and other concessions. In the course of time, the factories at Bombay, Madras, and Calcutta became the chief settlements or presidencies of the company.

The East India Company was formed in England by the Crown’s Charter of 1600 or Charter Act of 1600 as Englishmen were eager to establish their trade in the East (preferably in India). After the Chater Act 1600 the Company was exclusively given trading rights in Asia(India), Africa and Australia. Initially the Company’s intention was only to carry out their trade and commerce and it was only concerned with those powers which were required to regulate its business and maintain discipline amongst its servants and not for governing any territory. 

When company enterned into India, it found that the Kings are disunited and unaware of modern politics. The Comapany gradually took the advantage of the situation and started acquiring the territory of India in a very easy and smooth way. The Comapny’s strategy was based on “devide and rule” theory used the bitter relation of Kings as their weapon to acquire the Indian territory. At the time of introducing the company in India the sole intention of the Britishers were only commercial which gradually changed to politics.

When the intention of the Britishers changed from commercial to political, the laws enlisted in the Charter of 1600 were not sufficient to control a territory as it was drafted to maintain discipline within their servants. So to control the problems of the territory the British Crown gave more power to the company.

After giving powers to resolve the matters within the acquired territory, the judges were appointed by the Company to resolve the disputes but  there was no satisfactory delivery of law and justice by the Judges as they were laymen and not a legal scholars. There was no fixed procedure for the trials of the serious criminal cases and it varied from case to case.  There was no separation between executive and judiciary. In 1661, a charter was granted by the British Crown which gave more powers to the East India Company. 

The Charter of 1726

  1. Mayor’s Court of Madras was the first court established by the company in the year 1687 to settle the disputes of the people.
  2. Many Englishmen who settled in India died leaving behind huge amount of movable and immovable property. This created a problem to the company as they were not able to settle their assets.
  3. Courts established before charter of 1726 was no doubtly working efficiently but its decisions were not recognsised by the Court of England as it was the court of the Company and not of British Crown. So for smooth and good governance there was need of a Court in each presidency (Calcutta, Bombay and Madras) which were authorised by the British Crown.
  4. Before the charter of 1726, judges were laymen, they did not had sufficient knowledge of law, so they used to decide any matter according to their own conscience.
  5. With the growth in the Company’s trade, the population of British settlements had increased due to which the company was not able to maintain the law and order over the territory and their commercial charter which was implemented previously was sufficient to maintain an entire Indian territory.
  6. Finally on 24th September the Judicial Charter was granted by the British King George I.
  7. According to the Charter of 1726 three Corporation were to be established namely at Calcutta, Bombay and Madras.
  8. The Mayor and Aldermen formed a Court of Record called “Mayor’s Court”. It used to decide all civil cases.
  9. For Criminal case, one Governor and 5 council members were assigned. 
  10. The corporation would consist of 1 Mayor and 9 Aldermen (one who is next in the status of Mayor).
  11. First Mayor and Aldemen would be selected by the Charter and then next Mayor would be annually elected within the Aldermen.
  12. Mayor and 7 Aldermen would be the British subjects and rest of the 2 Aldermen could be from Indian Princely States friendly with Britain.
  13. Charter did not mention what law to follow but as the earlier charter of 1661 provided that justice to be in accordance with English law, it was presumed that the same law was to be followed.
  14. The process of the court was to be executed by the Sheriffs, who were initially nominated but subsequently chosen annually by the governor and council.

The establishments of several courts in accordance with the Charter was fruitful in the maintenance of the law and order over the presidencies. 

It amounted to lawful disposal of cases according to its nature. The judges now made under this charter were learned and experienced counsel of law and they used to execute the case in accordance with the law. There were now proper procedure for the trial of the cases and there was proper guidebook for the serving punishment in any particular case.

Author: Yashi Yashi,

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