THE ADALAT SYSTEM
In 1765, the company entered into an agreement with the Emperor whereby it obtained the diwani of the three provinces of the Bengal, Bihar and Orissa. In Warren Hastings prepared the first judicial plan. It was the first step to regulate machinery of administration of justice and the plan being a landmark in the ial history become famous as Warren Hasting’s plan of 1772. The main features of the plan were as follows,
Firstly, all the three provinces were sub-divided into districts which were placed Collectors. These collectors were responsible not only for the collection of revenue, but also for looking after the general administration of the district, judicial system was sought to be overhauled and separate civil (diwani) and (nizamat) courts (adalats) were established at various levels. Secondly, it should be remembered that in the presidency towns, Mayor’s established under the Charter of 1726 continued to function as usual. In fact, the Mayor’s Courts had been established to handle cases which involved or concerned the Englishmen serving under the Company or foreigners. These Courts, therefore, did not touch upon matters which concerned the natives living in the areas beyond the Presidency towns. The Adalat System which was introduced under the Judicial Plan of 1772, therefore, covered the mofussil areas under the Company. Thus the judicial plan covered the natives living in the mofussil areas.
The Adalat System, thus, introduced, can be discussed under the following main heads,
Courts of original jurisdiction
The Provinces of Bengal, Bihar and Orissa, were divided into various units for the purpose of administration, both judicial and civil. These units were called districts.
(1) Mofussil Diwani Adalat, At the level of each district, a mofussil diwani adalat was established. It was a court of original jurisdiction in civil or diwani matters. This court was headed by the Collector who functioned as a judge. The laws applied by this court were those embodied in the Shastras in case of the Hindus and in the Koran in case of the Muslims. This court handled all cases relating to property, inheritance, succession, marriage, castes, contracts and related matters. The Collector was assisted by the learned Pandits and Kazis who were well versed in the Hindu and the Muslim laws respectively.
(2) Mofussil Faujdari Adalats, Corresponding to the diwani adalat at each district, Mofussil Faujdari Adalat was established at the level of each district. This court handled all criminal cases. The law applied by this court was the Muslim law. This Court was presided over by a learned Kazi and a Mufti who were assisted by two maulvis all well versed in the Muslim law. The supervisory control on this court vested with the Collector. This court had the power to decide all criminal cases and punish the criminals except in the case of capital punishment. The proceedings of such cases had to be submitted to the Sadar Nizamat Adalat for confirmation of the sentence of death passed by this Court. There was a further provision for appeal to the Nawab or the Subedar who finally confirmed, commuted or reduced the punishment.
(3) Adalats of Small Causes, At the level of village or a small town, a Small Causes Adalat was established under the Head Farmer who decided the cases upto the value of Rupees ten. His decision in cases upto the value of Rupees one hundred seven were final. In other cases, the matter could be taken up higher to the Muftissil Diwani Adalat.
Courts of Appeal
(1) Sadar Faujdari (Nizamat) Adalat, This was an appellate court in all criminal matters and was presided over by a Daroga who was aided in his work by the Chief Kazi, the Chief Mufti and three Maulvis. The overall supervisory control on this court was exercised by the Governor General and his Council.
(2) Sadar Diwani Adalat , This Court was in fact the Governor General and his Council who all sat as judges in all diwani cases. This court heard all appeals from the Mofussil Diwani Adalats beyond the value of Rupees five hundred. The Diwani & Nizamat Adalats were established under the judicial plan of Warren Hastings. For the first time, these adalats were directed to apply personal laws of the natives. The law of the Shastras in the case of the Hindus, and the Law of the Koran in respect of the Muslims were to be applied to cases of marriage, caste, inheritance etc. The Pandits and Maulvis were to expound the personal laws of the natives.
In the field of criminal justice, the Muslim criminal law which was prevalent since long was to continue. Some improvements were however made from time to time with a view to imparting impartial justice.
In some cases and disputes the parties were allowed to resort to arbitration, and after the award, get a decree of the Mofussil Diwani Adalat.
Defects in the Plan
Though the judicial plan of 1772 was the first of its kind for the administration of justice within the framework of the country, after its working certain major defects came to light. The plan provided for a civil and a criminal court in each district.
(1) Less number of Courts, The head farmers were given power to decide petty cases up to Rupees ten. In fact it was necessary to have more subordinate courts keeping in view the population and the area of each district.
(2) Concentration of power, Another defect was the concentration of power—administrative, tax collection and judicial, in the hands of the Collector. The Collector was the Civil Judge as well as supervisor of the criminal courts. It was impossible for the Collector to devote time and energy to regulate all these affairs. Evils of the combination of executive and judicial powers in one person were bound to follow. When the private trade done by Collectors and the misuse of powers by them and their officials came to the notice of Warren Hastings, he gave a second thought to the original plan and prepared a new judicial plan on November 23, 1773 which was implemented from 1774.
As expressed by Jois, the plan, however, brought great credit and honour to (Warren Hastings because it was the proof of his intense desire to ensure impartial ‘and less expensive justice to people in the Moffiisil. Similarly it laid a second foundation for future development.