Exposition of the practical operation of the judicial and revenue systems of India, and of the general character and condition of its native inhabitants, as submitted in evidence to the authorities in England. With notes and illustrations .. online

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London :

Printed by Littlewood and Co,

Old Bailey.















eiucitJatcU bg a ^Kap.







India, anciently called the ** Bharat Varsha"*
after the name of a monarch called " Bharat"t is
bounded on its south by the sea; on the east
partly by this sea, and partly by ranges of moun-
tains separating it from the ancient China, or ra-
ther the countries now called Assam, Cassay and
Arracan ; on the north by a lofty and extensive
chain of mountains which divides itrfrom Tibet;
and on the west partly by ranges of mountains,
separating India from the ancient Persia, and
extending towards the Western Sea, above the
mouth of the Indus, and partly by this sea it-
self. It lies between the 8th and 35th degrees of

* " Varsha " implies a large tract of continent cut off from
other countries by natural boundaries, such as oceans, mountains,
or extensive deserts.

t " Bharat" a humane and powerful prince, supposed to have
sprung from the " Indu-Bangi' or the lunar race.


north latitude, and the 67th and 93d degrees of
east longitude. *

Wide tracts of this empire were formerly ruled
by different individual princes, who, though poli-
tically independent of, and hostile to each other,
adhered to the same religious principles, and com
monly observed the leading rites and ceremonies
taught in the Sanscrit language, whether more or
less refined. These tracts of land are separated

* The boundary mountains are interrupted on the east between
90° and 91° E. and lat. 26° and 27° N. Hence the countries to
the east of the Burrampooter, as Assam, Ava, Siam, &c. as far as
102° E. long, are by some authors considered as part of India,
though beyond its natural limits ; and by European writers usually
called ''India beyond the Ganges." There, relics of Sanscrit lite-
rature, and remains of Hindu temples are still found. Other an-
cient writers, however, considered these countries as attached to
China, the inhabitants having greater resemblance to the Chinese
in their features.

The western boundary mountains are in like manner broken
at long. 70° East, and at lat. 34° North. Consequently the
countries beyond that natural limit, such as Caubul and Can-
dahar, are supposed by some to be included in India, and by
others in Persia. But many Hindii antiquities still exist there
to corroborate the former notion. — Not only the northern boun-
dary mountains of India, but also those mountains which form
the eastern and western limits of it, are by the ancient writers on
India termed Himalaya, and considered branches of that great
chain, " In the north direction is situated the prince of moun-
tains, the ' immortal Himalaya' which immersing both in the
eastern and western seas, stands on earth as a standard of measure
(or line of demarcation.)" Cali. Das.


from each other by rivers, or hills, or sometimes
by imaginary lines of demarcation.

The part styled " the civilized," in the sacred
writings of the Brahmans, consists of two large

The first is called " the civilized and sacred
land ;"t which, extending from the banks of the
Indus at 34° north and 72° 25. east, in a south-
easterly direction, along the foot of the Himalaya
mountains as far as 26° 30. north and 87° 30. east,
lies between this line and the northern limits of
the Vindhya range, which runs from 22° north
and 73° east, to 25° north and 87° 30 east, through
Rajmahal, Behar, Benares, the Provinces of Alla-

* Manu, the most ancient authority, thus defines their limits.
" The lands lying as far as the eastern, and as far as the western
oceans, and between the mountains just mentioned (Himalaya
and Vindhya), are known to the wise by the name of " Aryavata"
or the land inhabited by respectable people." Ch. II. v. 22.

In his translation of this passage, Sir William Jones, by omit-
ting to refer to the commentary, which substitutes the copulative
Sanscrit particle " Ch" for " Eb," has thus translated this pas-
sage : "As far as the eastern and as far as the western oceans,
between the two mountains just mentioned, lies the tract which
the wise have named Aryaverta." This rendered the description
obscure, if not wholly unintelligible ; since the countries lying
between these two ranges of mountains, are scarcely situated be-
tween the eastern and western seas.

t Because this division includes within it the tract which is
called the Sacred Land, situated to the north of Delhi, thus de-
scribed by Manu. " Between the two divine rivers, Saraswati
and Drishadwati, lies the tract of land which the sages have
named Brahmavarta, because it was frequented by gods.
*A 4 ■


habad, and of Malwa, along the north side of the
Nerbudda, almost to the west coast of India. The
second division is named merely " the civilized
land," and is situated between the eastern and
western coasts, terminating towards the east at
the mouth of the Ganges, about 22° north, and
87° 30. east, and on the west towards the mouth
of the Indus, at nearly 22° north, 72° 30. east,
comprehending the large province of Guzrat.

The countries situated beyond the limits of the
civilized lands, as above described, whether moun-
tains, valleys, or low lands, though included with-
in the Bharat Varsha, are declared to have been
chiefly inhabited by Mlechhas, or barbarians, and
were therefore called barbarous countries.*

In consequence of the multiplied divisions and
subdivisions of the land into separate and inde-
pendent kingdoms, under the authority of numerous
princes hostile towards each other, f and owing to
the successive introduction of a vast number of

* A country, where the distinction of the four classes (Brah-
man, Kshatriya, Vaishya, and Sudra) is not observed, is known
as ' Mlechha Desk' or barbarous country," as quoted by Rag-

t Compare the feeble state of Persia when ruled by several
independent princes, with the formidable power she enjoyed when
consolidated under the empire of Saffi.

Direct your attention to a still nearer country, I mean Eng-
land ; and compare the consequences formerly arising from her
divided resources, with her present state of elevation under the
subsisting union.


castes and sects, destroying every texture of social
and political unity, the country, (or, properly
speaking, such parts of it as were contiguous to
foreign lands,) was at different periods invaded,
and brought under temporary subjection to fo-
reign princes, celebrated for power and ambi-

About 900 years ago, the Mahommedan princes,
advancing by the north-west, began to ravage and
over-run the country ; and after continued efforts,
during several centuries, they succeeded in con-
quering the best parts of India. Their rule was
transferred in succession from one dynasty of con-
querors to another (Ghazni, Ghor, and Afghan,)
till 1525 of the Christian era, when prince Babur,
a descendant of Timur (or Tamerlane), in the fifth
generation, established his throne in the centre of
Hindustan. His offspring (the Moghul dynasty)
exercised the uncontrolled sovereignty of this em-
pire * for nearly two centuries, (with the exception
of about sixteen years) under a variety of changes,
according to the rise or decrease of their power.

In the year 1712, the star of the Moghul as-
cendancy inclined towards descent, and has since
gradually sunk below the horizon. The princes

* It may be considered as consisting of the following twenty
provinces : Delhi, Lahore, Cashmere, Cabul, Candahar, Ajmere,
Multan, Guzrat, Agra, Oude, Allahabad, Behar, Bengal, Orissa,
Malwah, Khandesh, Berar, Aurungabad, Golconda, Bejapoor.

oftener consulted their own personal comfort than
the welfare of the state, and relied for success on
the fame of their dynasty, rather than on sound
policy and military valor. Not only their crowns,
but their lives also, depended on the goodwill of
the nobles, who virtually assumed independence
of the sovereign power, and each sought his own
individual aggrandizement.

At present, all the southern and eastern, as
well as several of the western provinces of the
empire, have gradually fallen into the possession
of the English. The army they employed chiefly
consisted of the natives of India, a country into
which the notion of patriotism has never made its
way. Those territories were in fact transferred to
British possession from the rule of a number of
the rebellious nobility. While the greatest part of
the northern provinces beyond the river Sutlej
has fallen into the hands of Rutijeet Singh, the
chief of a tribe commonly called Sikhs.

Akbar the Second, present heir and representa-
tive of the imperial house of Timur, enjoys only
the empty title of '' King of Delhi," without either
royal prerogative or power.

Runjeet Singh, sovereign of north-western In-
dia, (consisting of Lahore, Multan, Cashmere,
and Eastern Cabul,) is considered highly gifted
with prudence and moderation, and apparently
inclined towards liberal principles ; judicious in
the discharge of public duties, and affable in pri-


vate intercourse. The idea of constitutional go-
vernment being entirely foreign to his mind, he
has necessarily followed the same system of arbi-
trary rule which has been for ages prevailing in
the country. The government he has established,
although it be purely military, is nevertheless mild
and conciliatory.

With regard to the circumstances under which
a body of respectable English merchants (com-
monly known by the name of the Honorable East
India Company) first obtained their Charter of
Privileges in 1600, during the reign of Queen
Elizabeth, to carry on trade with the East Indies ;
and with respect to the particulars of their success
in procuring from the Emperor of Hindoostan
(JahangTr), and from several of his successors,
permission to establish commercial factories, as
well as the enjoyment of protection, and various
privileges in that country ; with relation further
to their conquests, which commencing about the
middle of the 18th century have extended over
the greater part of India, — conquests principally
owing to the dissensions and pusillanimous conduct
of the native princes and chiefs, as well as to the
ignorance existing in the East, of the modern im-
provements in the art of war, combined with the
powerful assistance afforded to the Company by
the naval and military forces of the crown of Eng-
land, — I refer the reader to the modern histories


of India,* such particnlars and details being quite
foreign to the object which I have for the present
in view.

The government of England, in the meantime,
received frequent intimations of the questionable
character of the means by which their acquisitions
had been obtained and conquests achieved, and of
the abuse of power committed by the Company's
servants,t who were sent out to India from time
to time to rule the territory thus acquired ; and
the impression in consequence was that the im-
mense, or rather incalculable, distance, between
India and England, impeding intercourse between
the natives of the two countries, and the absence
of efficient local check on the exercise of power
by the Company's executive officers, as well as
the hope of support from their influential em-
ployers in England, might lead many of them to
neglect or violate their duties and bring reproach

* Bruce's Annals ; Anderson's History of Commerce in
M'Pherson's Annals ; Sir Thomas Roe's Journal and Letters ;
Raynal's East and West Indies ; Orme's Historical fragments,
and on the Government and people of Hindostan ; Dow's His-
tory ; Malcolm's Sketch of the political History of India ; Ditto,
Central India ; and Mill's History of British India.

t They were generally relations and friends of the leading
members of the company, twenty-four in number, called the
"Directors," first elected in 1709, and invested by the general
body of the company with the power of managing their territorial
possessions in India, as well as their commerce in the East and


on the national character. Under these ap-
prehensions the British Parliament in 1773, by
13th Geo. III. commonly called the Regulating
Act, declared that all territorial acquisitions by
conquest or treaty belong to the state, and directed
that all correspondence connected with their civil
or military government should be submitted to the
consideration of the Ministers; and subsequently
in 1784, (by act 24th Geo. III. cap. 25.) a Board
of Commissioners was established by the crown
as a controul over the East India Company and
the executive officers in India. The Board con-
sists of a president, who usually has a seat in the
British cabinet, and of several members, honorary
and otherwise, with a secretary and other requisite
subordinate officers. This institution has an-
swered the purpose as far regards subjects of a
general nature.

The system of rule introduced and acted on in
India by the executive officers of the Company,
previous to 1793, was of a mixed nature — Euro-
4)ean and Asiatic. The established usages of the
country were for the most part adopted as the
model of their conduct, in the discharge of poli-
tical, revenue, and judical functions, with modi-
fications at the discretion of the local authority.
In addition to the exercise of the sovereign power,
declared through policy to have been vested in
them by the throne of Delhi, they continued to
act in their commercial capacity with greater


success than previous to their sovereignty.* In
consideration of the extensive territories acquired
by the Company in different parts of India, they
deemed it advisable to establish three govern-
ments at the three presidencies of Bengal, Madras
and Bombay ; the two latter being, since 1773,
subordinate to the first in matters of a political

The Marquis of Cornwallis, a straight-forward
lionest statesman, assumed the reins of govern-
ment in Bengal in 1786.f He succeeded not
only in consolidating the British power in its poli-
tical relations in those remote regions ; but also
in introducing, in 1793, material changes in every
department, particularly in the revenue and
judicial systems. These changes approximating
to the institutions existing in England, are calcu-
lated to operate beneficially, if regularly reduced
to practice.

As my evidence respecting the government of
India which will form the main body of this
treatise gives a particular account of the practical
operation of these systems, I refrain from a repeti-
tion of it in this place.

* The monopoly of salt has proved an immense source of re-
venue to them. Besides the factories of opium, silk, cloth, &c.
have been established in many places favourably situated for com-

t Since the formation of the Board of Commissioners for the
affairs of India, the Crown has exercised the right of selection in
regard to the governor-general to be nominated by the Company.


From occasionally directing my studies to the
subjects and events peculiarly connected with
Europe, and from an attentive, though partial,
practical observation in regard to some of them,
I felt impressed with the idea, that in Europe
literature was zealously encouraged and know-
ledge widely diffused ; that mechanics were almost
in a state of perfection, and politics in daily pro-
gress ; that moral duties were, on the whole, ob-
served with exemplary propriety, notwithstanding
the temptations incident to a state of high and
luxurious refinement ; and that religion was
spreading, even amid scepticism and false phi-

I was in consequence continually making efforts
for a series of years, to visit the Western World,
with a view to satisfy myself on those subjects by
personal experience. I ultimately succeeded in
surmounting the obstacles to my purpose, prin-
cipally of a domestic nature ; and having sailed
from Calcutta on the 19th of November 1830. 1
arrived in England on the 8th of April follow-
ing. The particulars of my voyage and travels
will be found in a Journal which I intend to pub-
lish ; together with whatever has appeared to me
most worthy of remark and record in regard to
the intelligence, riches and power, manners, cus-
toms, and especially the female virtue and excel-
lence existing in this country.

The question of the renewal of the Honorable


East India Company's Charter* being then under
the consideration of the government, and various
individuals connected w^ith India having been
examined as witnesses on the subject, the autho-
rities wishedme also, as a native of that country, to
deliver my evidence ; which was, in consequence,
given as in the following pages.

Although it has been printed among the other
minutes of evidence taken before the select com-
mittee of the House of Commons, I deem it proper
to publish it in a separate form, for the purpose of
prefixing these preliminary explanations, and of
accompanying it with notes and replies to re-
marks made thereon, by persons whose opinions
are deserving of notice.

* The company's charter was last renewed by the crown in
1813, with certain modifications for a period of, twenty years,
and consequently expires in 1833, unless previously renewed.


I. Preliminary Remarks — Brief Sketch of the An-
cient and Modern Boundaries and History of
India i — xvi

II. Questions and Answers on the Judicial System

of India 1 — 55

III. Do. Do. on the Revenue System of India.. 57 — 85

IV. A Paper on the Revenue System of India . . 87 — 89

V. Additional Queries, respecting the Condition of

India 101—111

VI. Appendix 1 13—126





1. Question. Have yon observed the operation of

the Judicial System in India ?
Answer. I have long turned my attention to-
wards the subject, and possess a general acquaint-
ance with the operation of that system, more par-
ticularly from personal experience in the Bengal
presidency, where I resided.

2. Q. Do you think that the system hitherto acted
■ upon is calculated to secure justice ?

A. The judicial system established in 1793,
by Lord Cornwallis, was certainly well adapted
to the situation of the country, and to the charac-
ter of the people as well as of the government,
had there been a sufficient number of qualified
judges to discharge the judicial office, under a
proper code of laws.


3. Q. Explain particularly in what points you

consider the practical operation of the system

defective ?
A. In the want of a sufficient number of judges
and magistrates, in the want of adequate qualifi-
cation in many of them to discharge the duty in
foreign languages, and in the want of a proper
code of laws, by which they might be easily

4. Q. Can you explain what evils result from the

want of a greater number of judges ?
A. 1st, The courts being necessarily few in
number in comparison to the vast territories under
the British rule, many of the inhabitants are situ-
ated at so great a distance from them, that the
poorer classes are in general unable to go and seek
redress for any injury, particularly those who may
be oppressed by their wealthier neighbours, pos-
sessing great local influence. 2ndly, The busi-
ness of the courts is so heavy that causes often
accumulate to such an extent, that many are ne-
cessarily pending some years before they can be
decided ; an evil which is aggravated by subse-
quent appeals from one court to another, attended
with further delay and increased expence. By
this state of things wrong-doers are encouraged,
and the innocent and oppressed in the same pro-
portion discouraged, and often reduced to despair.
3rdly, Such a mass of business transacted in fo-
reign languages being too much for any one indi-


vidual, even the ablest and best intentioned judge,
may be disheartened at seeing before him a file of
causes which he can hardly hope to overtake ; and
he may therefore be thus induced to transfer a
great part of the business to his native officers,
who are not responsible, and who are so meanly
paid for their services, that they may be expected
to consult their own interests.

5. Q. Will you inform us what evils arise from
the want of due qualification in the judges 1

A. It is but justice to state that many of the
judicial officers of the company are men of the
highest talents, as well as of strict integrity, and
earnestly intent on doing justice. However, not
being familiar with the laws of the people over
whom they are called to administer justice by
these laws, and the written proceedings of the
court, answers, replies, rejoinders, evidence taken,
and documents produced, being all conducted in
a language which is foreign to them, they must
either rely greatly on the interpretation of their
native officers, or be guided by their own surmises
or conjectures. In one case, the cause will be de-
cided by those who in point of rank and pay are
so meanly situated, and who are not responsible
to the government or the public for the accuracy
of the decision ; in the other case, a decision
founded on conjecture must be very liable to er-
ror. Still, I am happy to observe that there are
some judicial officers, though very few in number,

B 2


whose judgment and knowledge of the native
languages are such, that in cases which do not in-
volve much intricacy and legal subtlety, they are
able to form a correct decision independent of the
natives around them.

6. Q, Cati you point out what obstructions to the

admi?ustratio)i of justice cu^e produced by the

ivcmt of a better code of laws ?
A. The regulations published from year to
year by the local government since 1793, which
serve as instructions to the courts, are so volu-
minous, complicated, and in many instances, ei-
ther too concise or too exuberant, that they are
generally considered not a clear and easy guide ;
and the Hindu and Mahommedan laws adminis-
tered in conjunction with the above regulations,
being spread over a great number of different
books of various and sometimes doubtful autho-
rity, the judges, as to law points, depend entirely
on the interpretations of their native lawyers,
whose conflicting legal opinions have introduced
great perplexity into the administration of justice.

7. Q. Is there any other impediment to the fair

administration of justice besides these you have

A. The first obstacle to the administration of
justice is, that its administrators and the persons
among whom it is administered have no common
language. 2ndly, That owing partly to this cause
and also in a great measure to the difference of


manners &c., the communication between these two
parties is very limited ; in consequence of which
the judges can with the utmost difficulty acquire
an adequate knowledge of the real nature of the
grievances of the persons seeking redress, or of
the real character and validity of the evidence by
which their claims are supported or opposed.
3dly, That there is not the same relation between
the native pleaders and the judge as between the
British bar and the bench. 4thly, The want
of publicity owing to the absence of reporters and
of a public press, to take notice of the proceedings
of the courts in the interior : consequently there
is no superintendence of public opinion to watch
whether the judges attend their courts once a day
or once a week, or whether they attend to business
six hours or one hour a day, or their mode of
treating the parties, the witnesses, the native
pleaders or law officers, and others attending the
courts — as well as the principles on which they
conduct their proceedings and regulate their de-

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Online LibraryUnknownExposition of the practical operation of the judicial and revenue systems of India, and of the general character and condition of its native inhabitants, as submitted in evidence to the authorities in England. With notes and illustrations .. → online text (page 1 of 8)