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THE MAYOR’S COURT
The charter of 1726 provided for the establishment of a corporation in each presidency town. The charter is considered to be an important landmark in the history of legal system in India as it introduced the English laws into the country.
Factors Leading to the Establishment of Mayor’s Court
Before 1726 there were different judicial system functioning in the British Settlement, which were increased in number by 1726. As a result the servants of the many, working at such different settlements were subject to different sets of courts. There was, thus a lack of uniformity in the British settlements, for the same offence wild entail different and sometimes Contrary Penal Consequence. There was also another factor which compelled the Company to have a uniform law.
There were quite important distinguishing feature between the Company’s Mayer’s Court and the Crown’s Mayor’s Courts established under the Charter of 126. The main differences are given below,
(1) the Mayor’s Court under the Charter of 1687 was created by the Company while the Mayor’s Courts under the Charter of 1726 drew their power directly from the Crown. Thus the latter were on a superior footing than the former
(2) The Charter of 1687 created only one Mayor’s Court at Madras, it did not touch the judicial system prevailing in other settlements, presidencies under the Company. The Charter of 1726 created Mayor’ Courts at all the three presidencies that is Madras, Calcutta and Bombay thus, for the first time, establishing a uniform judicial system.
(3) The Mayor’s Court established under the Charter of 1687 enjoyed both civil and criminal jurisdiction. While the mayor’s courts established under the Charter of 1726 mayor’s Courts established under the Charter of ( were given jurisdiction in civil matters including testamentary and probate of wills jurisdiction, Criminal matters were left to be decided by am within the jurisdiction of, Governor-in-Council which acted as a court i such matters.
(4) The Charter of 1726 made, for the first time, a provisions for a second appeal to the King-in-Council which became a precursor of the Privy Council later on. Thus under this Charter, the first appeal could be filed before the Governor-in-Council and the second (although in some cases) appeal could be taken to the King-in-Council in England. The Charter of 1687 did not make such provision. The appeal from the Mayor’s court could be filed before the Admiralty Court.
(5) The Mayor’s Court established under the Charter of 1687 made a provision for the representation of the natives on the court. The Crown’s Mayors Courts did not have any such representation, though there was a provision I for the same in the Charter of 1726.
(6) No doubt, the Crown’s Mayor’s Courts established under the charter of 1726 were definitely superior courts so far as their status is concerned, but in strict judicial and legal manner, the Company’s Mayor’s Court was better equipped, for there was a provision for a lawyer-member who was to be called the Recorder. The Charter of 1726 although it purported to improve the judicial system in India, did not make any such provision. . Thus the Courts established in 1726 were mostly composed of Company’s civil servants who did not have sufficient experience in legal matters.
(7) There was yet another important distinction between the two Mayor’s Courts. The Company’s Mayor Court evolved its own procedure and dispensed justice in accordance with the rules of common sense, equity and good conscience. It avoided the intricate procedural technicalities. But the Charter of 1726 which introduced the British laws into India brought all the legal technicalities of the British Courts of law. Thus the entire gamut of British laws and its procedure were foisted on the Courts established under the Charter of 1726.
(8) The Charter of 1726, in a way, did away with the concept of separation between the executive and the judiciary in criminal matters. The Governor-in-Council acted as the criminal court while the Mayor’s Courts handled only the civil matters and testamentary and probate of wills cases. On the other hand, the Mayor’s Court at Madras was invested with power to handle all civil and criminal matters and appeals from its decisions went to the Admiralty Court rather than the Governor-in-Council.
The Charter of 1726 also constituted a Mayor’s Court for each of the presidency towns consisting of a Mayor and nine Aldermen. Three of them i.e., the Mayor or senior Alderman together with two other Aldermen were required to be present to form the quorum of the Court. The Mayor’s Courts were declared to be present to fan the quorum of the Court. The Mayor’s Courts were declared to be Courts of record and were authorized to try, hear and determine all civil actions and pleas between party and party. The Court was also granted testamentary jurisdiction id power to issue letters of administration to the legal heir of the deceased person. It was authorized to exercise its jurisdiction over all persons living in the presidency own and working in the Company’s subordinate factories.
Appeals from decisions of Mayor’s Court were filed in the Court of Governor and Council. A second appeal in cases involving 1000 pagodas or more could be made to king-in-council in England. The court of Governor and Council also decided criminal cases.
Mayor’s Courts under the Charter of 1687 and 1726:
Comparison— Apart from the apparent similarity of names there was a vast difference between the two Charters. The main differences may be enumerated as under:
(1) The Charter of 1687 applied to Madras only while the Charter of 1726 applied to all the three Presidencies.
(2) The Mayor’s Court established under the Charter of 1726 had the jurisdiction in Civil matters only in addition to its testamentary and probate jurisdiction, while the court under the Charter of 1687 had the jurisdiction in criminal matters also.
(3) Appeals against the judgments of the Mayor’s Court under the Charter of 1687 went to the Court of Admiralty while from the Mayor’s Court under the Charter of 1726, to the King-in-Council.
(4) The Mayor’s Court of 1687 was a Court of the Company while the court established under the Charter of 1726 was the Court of the Crown.
(5) The Mayor’s Court under the Charter of 1687 was better in one respect that it had a lawyer-member called Recorder while in the Court under Charter of 1726 there was no provision for any lawyer-member.
(6) In procedural matters, the court under the Charter of 1726 had to observe the technicalities of the courts in England while the Court under Charter of 1687 was guided by its own procedure of convenience.
(7) In the Court under Charter of 1687 there was good representation of Indians while under the Charter of 1726 in spite of the provision for two Indian members none was ever appointed in practice.
(8) Under the Charter of 1726 the criminal jurisdiction was completely assigned to the executive, i.e., the Governor and Council, while under the earlier Charter it belonged to the Mayor’s Court and the Admiralty Court.