Judicial Reforms of Lord Cornwallis

2104 Words Aug 6th, 2011 9 Pages
Lord Cornwallis assumed the role of Governor-General of the Company in 1786 and continued till 1793. He was directed to take up three specific matters, one of them being reforms of the judicial system. The other tasks were resolving the problem of land revenue and improvement in the administrative machinery. During his tenure, he made significant and far-reaching reforms in the judicial administration, some of which constitute the foundation of the present legal system. The reforms were primarily made in three stages: first in 1787, then in 1790 and, finally in 1793.
Prior to the reforms initiated by Cornwallis in 1787, the judicial plan of 1780 brought about by Warren Hastings was in force. The Company was dissatisfied
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The ultimate criminal court was the Sadar Nizamat Adalat which was shifted from Murshidabad to Calcutta. The Nawab was divested of his control over the Adalat and the Governor-General and members of the Council were its judges.

The new system was a great improvement over the pre-existing system. The scheme had been devised on the principle of checks and balances to ensure trials were conducted impartially. The Magistrates were to discharge their functions under the control of Circuit Courts and these Courts were empowered to try criminal cases but final orders in serious offences were to be passed by the Sadar Nizamat Adalat. Yet, strains began to appear in the system, thereby calling for adjustments from time to time in the form of further reforms.

Further Reforms upto 1793
One of the limitations of the plan of 1790 was the excess of work in the Circuit Courts as the number of courts was small for the area. So, to reduce the arrears of work, Cornwallis gave some more powers to Magistrates in 1792. Other reforms included provisions for allowance to prosecutors and witnesses who came to the courts and payment of a small amount to the convicts on their release from jail for meeting their necessary expenses for one month to prevent their relapse into crime.

The plan of 1790 as well as further reforms mainly focused
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