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The British rule in India at very first instance can not be said to be for the betterment of our country but it is
a fact that what the British did in order to consolidate their rule over Indiaand the steps that they took in
order to get more profit, in a way, they turned out to be beneficial for us. The present legal system of our
country is more British than Indian. The British needed a better administration of justice as, it would in turn,
lead to a better trading conditions that in furtherance would bring them more profit.
The period of 1772-1835 witnessed the first serious attempts at the establishment of an effective and sound
judicial system to protect the interests of all the sections. The reforms brought about Lord Cornwallis with
the principle of providing free justice to all were a landmark in the Indian Legal history. These reforms
basically streamlined the judicial system and led to the establishment of proper judicial set up based on
codes. After Lord Cornwallis, Sir John Shore who succeeded him also had his contribution in the
improvisation of the judicial system. In subsequent sections we will be analysing the contribution of Sir John
Shore in the development of this legal system.

The Governor-Generalship of Lord Cornwallis constitutes an important epoch in the history of modern India.
It may be rightly called the period of reforms. His real and important work lay in the status of the
covenanted civil services, the collection of land revenues and the organization of judicature. He introduced
a judicial system based on the principle of equality and justice, set up a gradation of civil courts, reformed
criminal law, proclaimed thes over eignty of law and brought out a new code of regulation called Cornwallis
Code of Civil Procedure, thus completing the work begun under Warren Hastings.

Judicial Reforms by Lord Cornwallis:
Lord Cornwallis came to India in 1786 with the definite instructions from the Directors, who had enjoined
economy and simplification, to reunite the functions of a revenue collector, civil judge and magistrate in one
and the same person. In obedience to his instructions, without expressing his views Cornwallis brought
about changes in the existing system in 1787. Accordingly European collectors were empowered to deal
with the revenue disputes and were also made the judge of the Diwani Adalats enjoying full magisterial
powers. However hie was enjoined not to mix the revenue affairs with the civil suits. He tried the revenue
matters in the maal adalats (revenue courts).Appeal against the decision first lay to the Board of Revenue
at Calcutta and then to the Governor General and Council. Though Cornwallis brought about these
changes as a loyal servant, he was not happy over the combination of the judicial and the revenue
functions. The civil courts that were presided over by the revenue officers had gradually been converted in
to the institutions of oppression and were continuously inflicting wrongs on the inhabitants of this
country. Therefore Cornwallis after a consultation with the judges and officials for the next three years
came up with a reform in the year 1790.

The Judicial Plan, 1790:
The preamble to the regulation explained that the changes were necessitated by the numerous robberies,
murders and other enormities which have been daily committed throughout the country. The district
fauzdari adalats were swept away and in their places four circuit courts, three for Bengal and one for Bihar,
presided over the by two judges chosen from the covenanted civil service were set up. The judges decided
these cases with the help of Qazis and Muftis. These courts toured every district twice a year to try persons
charge sheeted by the city magistrates. The sadar nizamat was transferred from Murshidabad to Calcutta
where the Governor General and council who sat as judged continued to be assisted by Qazis or Muftis.
With this the criminal jurisdiction of the native Deputy Nawab was thus finally abolished.

The Judicial Plan of 1793:
The reforms brought about in this year were one of the most important and landmark reforms made by
Cornwallis as it was based on the postulate which are regarded as essential and fundamental for the
organization of the judicature in any civilised country. The scheme was based on the principle of separation
of powers and accordingly the revenue and judicial function were given to different hands, though this
principle was afterwards departed from in the Governor-Generalship of Lord Hastings. The collectors were
divested of all judicial powers including the trial of revenue cases and wereleft only with the power of
collecting land revenue. The district civil court came to be presided over by a class of new officers known
as District Judge. An ascending hierarchy of courts was set up. At the lowest level there were Munsiffs
courts presided over by the Indian Commissioners who dealt with petty disputes involving amounting up to
the value of Rs 50.Next to this came the Court of Registrar presided over by the covenanted servant of the
company. He tried the cases up to the value of Rs 200. Appeals from both these courts lay to the District or
City Courts. There after the District courts came, presided over by the British judge and helped by the
Indian assessors. Above them were the four provincial Courts of Appeals, each under three European
judges with the three European judges with the Indian assessors at Patna, Dacca, Murshidabad and
Calcutta. These judges were also the judges of Circuit. It heard the cases referred to it by the government
or the Sadr Diwani Adalat and entertained the cases refused by the Mofussil Diwani Adalat. It dealt with the
cases involving a sum of Rs 1000. The highest court of appeal was Sadar Diwani Adalat consisting of the
Governor General and members of the council in Calcutta. It heard appeals involving over Rs1000. An
appeal against the decision of this court lay to the King-in-Council in disputes exceeding 5000 pounds. The
British subjects in the districts were made amenable to Diwani Adalat. All those who lived away from
Calcutta were refused licenses until they agreed to submit themselves to the jurisdiction of the Civil Courts.
The government servants were made answerable to the Civil Court for the acts done by them in their
official capacity. Thus Cornwallis proclaimed the principle of Sovereignty of Law in India. More so in case of
the criminal justice the Islamic Law was still in practice. The law of Evidence was modified by the regulation
IX of 1793 which provided that the religious persuasions of witnesses shall not be considered as a bar to
the conviction or condemnation of a prisoner. This regulation enabled the non-Muslims to give testimony
against the Muslims in criminal cases. There was another provision that put restriction on the right of the
heir of a slain man to pardon the murderer and substituted imprisonment for the mutilation. All these
regulations were embodied in the famous Cornwallis Code. The court fee which was to be paid at the time
of the institution of cases was at the rate of 2-5% was abolished so as to make justice cheap. However, all
these reforms that were unprecedented in the Indian Legal History, made by Lord Cornwallis, were not free
from defects. The defects and the further developments have been dealt in the following sections.

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Defects of the scheme of 1793:
Cornwallis left India immediately after establishing the new system of Judiciary in 1793.hedid not stay to
see the scheme in actual operation. The responsibility to work the scheme fell on Shore who succeeded
Cornwallis. Shore started his career as the Governor
General with a profound respect for the Cornwallis system, his initial reaction being that the judicial system
proceeds well, I am satisfied that his Lordships plan was solid, wise and proved beneficial to the authority
to the country. In the meanwhile, the court of Directors also accorded their strong and flattering approbation
of the arrangement adopted in 1793.
Accumulation of Arrears in Adalat
No system however deliberately and elaborately planned, can be perfect and free of defects. The same
was true of the Cornwallis system. A serious problem which emerged was that the civil courts were faced
with a large volume of litigation, and arrears of cases awaiting disposal mounted very high, so much so that
the entire course of justice was threatened. An idea of the magnitude of the problem could be had from the
following account: In Burdwan, in 1795 the number of pending suits in the district adalat was nearly thirty
thousands. Taking into the consideration the time spent by the Judge on his duties as a magistrate, the
adalat could not dispose of more than ten cases a day, and on that basis, the period required by the adalat
to clear off the pending business would be about eight or nine years; but if the present rate of filling the
suits continued, the number of suits pending at the end of that period would be one hundred and sixty- five
thousand. Thus, a person could not hope to have his suit decided within the foreseeable future and
this defeated the very purposes of having a court.
A similar phenomenon emerged throughout Bengal, Bihar and Orissa. The purpose of Cornwallis to give to
the Indians a free and impartially Justice was thus being completely nullified due to the vast accumulation
of arrears in the adalats. Under the scheme of 1793, the function of deciding revenue disputes including
demands of revenue had been entrusted to diwani adalats Out of this arose two difficulties. It led to the
increase of the work before the adalats and thus led to the accumulation of undecided cases there. Further
disposal of revenue demands by zamindars against their tenants was very much delayed by the adalats
because of loads of work on them. This put the Zamindars in a quandary, while the Government had
summery power to realise its revenue arrears from the zamindars by selling away the defaulters lands, the
zamindars had no much summary method available to them realise their dues from tenants : they had to
move against their tenants through the extremely dilatory process of the adalats. From the point of view of
the zamindars, the situation was very inequitable; there was little prospect of their revenue demands
against their tenants of the Governments demands against them. The delays in judicial process resulted
in many zamindaries being sold. Many representatives were made to the Government to the Government
urging the need to mend matters. The wheels of justice were clogged and this affected the government as
well as the private individuals. The collection of revenue was being adversely affected. It became
indispensable to take steps to set matters right. In this anxiety to ensure impartial justice, Cornwallis had
prescribed an elaborately procedure for the Diwani adalat to follow. He had taken the view that the forms
are equally essential to the due administration of justice , and where the forms now prescribed, differ from
those heretofore in use the variation has been made with a view to render them better adapted to the
purposes for which they are established.

The best way out of the difficult situation would have been to increase the number of adalats.This would
have increased disposal of cases and migrated accumulation of business in the adalats.Though thev

scheme of 1793 was conceived with the beat of motives to provide justice at low cost, yet the mean
adopted were not adequate to achieve this end. A close look at its structure will reveal these defects. In this
three provinces of Bengal, Bihar and Orrisa, only 26 diwani adalats were established. The jurisdiction of the
registers and munsiffs was very small; also they could not dispose of the matters finally, and their decree
needed to be lessened by munsiffs and registers court, further for every cases , howsoever small its value,
two appeals were provided which also increased the load of work on the adalats. Then there were
revenue cases also to deal with. Thus, while litigation was facilitated and recourse to courts made easy, the
large number of pending cases suits proved this point beyond doubt. Shores Government was not,
however willing to adopt the expedient of increasing the number of courts. It had a fervent faith in the
sufficiency of the established courts. It took the view that the scheme of 1793 provided for more courts than
had been available previously under the 1787 scheme .Under the 1793 Scheme , there was diwani adalats
,registers and munsiffs, while in the 1787 scheme there was only one adalat. Even Judges could act like
collectors and so they do not have to pay full time on the administration of justice. On the other hand the
diwani judge under the 1793 scheme did not act as the collector and his sole duty was to administer justice.
Shores government thus thought that the accumulation of work in the adalat was merely a temporary
phase and had resulted because the system had noted enough time to operate fully, and as the courts
settled down and exercised their powers fully, accumulation of cases would abate. But the governments
assumption was facile and native and was based on a wrong premise. Before 1793, although one person
held the office of collector, judge and magistrate, yet he did not perform the judicial work regularly or
conscientiously. Suits of importance, or those which affected the governments interests, probably were
decided by the collector himself, but, by and large, the bulk of suits aiming the individuals were settled by
him or his officers in a summary manner. As the collectors performed his work in a very perfunctory
manner, not all litigation that might arise was brought before him: people adjusted most of their disputes
through the customary methods of decision. After 1793, things changed, Access to the courts was now
facilitated and justice became easily available to all: court fees were abolished and so even the poor could
now file case and seek that the new Judges had no responsibility to collect revenue, but their work had
not diminished increased their work. No conclusions, therefore about the adequacy of the courts under the
system of 1793 could be drawn by reference to the pre-existing system. The state judicial work in the
country was extremely unhappy and some solid steps were called for to give relief to the civil courts. But,
as the Government firmly held the view that the phase of arrears was temporary and would soon pass out
with the system settling down, it was not in a mood yet to effect any major adjustments in the Cornwallis
Scheme. It thought of effecting some minor adjustments only, and the first step was taken in 1794 with a
view to diminish congestion of work in the Diwani adalat.

The expedient adopted by the government to provide relief to the over-worked courts was in effect worse
than the disease. Taxing litigation and thus making justice expensive and less easily accessible led to a
wholesale denial of justice to large section of people. It amounted to frightening away suitors from the doors
of the courts. Many people with genuine cases could cases could not avail of the courts owing to their
inability to defray expenses of a judicial process and many lost their cases because of ignorance of the new
levy. The propriety of the step was questionable and dubious and many government officials criticized the
step taken. Taxing litigation was in reality being made use of as a source of income by the Government. In
a typical criticism of the system, the judge of Midnapur, he pointed that many person gave up their cases in
despair on finding the expenses on continuing them to be beyond their means. It was not so much the
original fee on the institution of a suit but the subsequent charges on exhibits and witness that was
intolerable and he continued. He was of the view that not more than five percent of the suits filed could be
fairly regarded litigation, and those were probably instituted by men well able to hear the expense.
Similarly, the Murshidabad court of appeal commenting adversely on that measure stated that the levy of
fees didnt check litigiousness, but encouraged it, for certainty of expenses added to the uncertainty of the
result, might deter parties from defending even just right.

Governor-General Shore was called upon to effect changes in the system introduced by Lord Cornwallis
with a view to reduce the congestion of works in the adalats and expedite disposal of cases. His reforms
mainly followed two courses: restricting the rights of appeal to higher courts from the decisions of the lower
court and imposing court fees. The idea of restricting appeals was basically sound and improvement over
the system introduced by Cornwallis which provided for too many appeals making administration of justice
dilatory and cumbersome process. The imposition of court fee on the other hand was a retrograde step. It
was imposed, the reason being to decrease the number litigations. But in a contrary effect it shut the doors
of justice for the poor and here Sir John Shore knocked out a vital principle of the Cornwalliss system that
was providing free justice to all.


YEAR 2011-2012.

REGD. NO. 1141845017


{ i }

I take immense pleasure in thanking Dr. JAYDEV PATI and Dr. RAGHUNATH PATTNAIK for having
permitted me to carry out this Assignment work on the topic LORD CORNWALLIS JUDICIAL PLANS OF
I wish to express my deep sense of gratitude to Mr. BINOD NARAYAN SETHI for his able
guidance and useful suggestions.
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{ ii }

I, Mr. Sumit, a student of BBA LLB 5 Year Integrated Law studies of Siksha O Anusandhan National
Institute of Law, Bhubaneswar do hereby declare that the Assignment Work titled LORD CORNWALLIS
JUDICIAL PLANS OF 1793 : AN ANALYSIS has not being submitted for evaluation elsewhere.



DECLARATION........................................................................ { ii }
PREFACE..{ iii }


{ iii }

It gave immense pleasure to write a preface on my assigned work titled LORD CORNWALLIS JUDICIAL
In this assignment work provided to me I have fully categorized and divided the whole subject to make it
easier and critically analysed the intricate issues there of. I have trced various relations that relates the
subject matter.
In the first part I have introduced the subject and then co-relate it so that it may help researchers in future
on the applied subject.