J. D. (John David) Rees.

India; the real India (Volume 19) online

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holding office in the superior branches of the execu-
tive and judicial services, of whom only 100 are
Europeans. The natives manage most of the busi-
ness connected with the land, dispose of most of
the magisterial business, and perform nearly all the
civil judicial work throughout the empire. Sir John
Strachey pointed out that, except in England, there
is no country in Europe in which judicial and ex-
ecutive officers receive such large salaries as are
given in the higher ranks of the native civil service.
Appointments made in India carrying a salary of 31
a month and upwards are reserved for Indians, and
under an Act of Parliament of 1870 selected natives
are eligible for any of the offices formerly reserved
for the Indian Civil Service. At present the public
service is divided into the Indian Civil Service,
recruited in England, and the provincial and subor-
dinate services, recruited in India from amongst
natives of India, and the members of the provincial
services enjoy all important executive, judicial, and
administrative appointments which are not held by
the smaller Indian Civil Service recruited at home.


They are also eligible for offices hitherto reserved
for the Indian Civil Service, and in the discharge
of their functions, and more particularly their judi-
cial functions, they have shown conspicuous abil-
ity. Of the eight great provinces of India, Bengal,
with upwards of 50,000,000, is the most populous,
though the United Provinces, with 48,000,000, run
it close. Burma, with 170,000 square miles, is the
most extensive province, followed by Bengal with
151,000 and Madras with 142,000. Burma is as
big as Sweden; the United Provinces contain more
inhabitants than Austria-Hungary, and the popula-
tion of Madras and the area of Bombay are about
the same as the population and area of the United
Kingdom. British India is divided into 250 dis-
tricts, the average size being three-quarters of that
of Yorkshire, and the average number of inhabi-
tants more than half the population of that county.
The head of the district, the Collector and Magis-
trate, is the representative of Government and the
principal revenue and magisterial officer. He per-
forms all duties connected with the land and land
revenue and has general control over or co-operates
with special officers in the management of the police,
public works, forests, gaol, sanitation, and education,
besides being responsible for the guidance of munici-
pal and district boards, for the peace of his district,
and for the administration of the Famine Code in
times of scarcity. He is assisted by subordinate
civil officers, by a superintendent of police, and a
civil surgeon. There are also similar sub-district



units, in charge of native officers, who administer,
very satisfactorily, charges varying from 400 to
600 square miles. Below them again are the vil-
lage officers, headman, accountant, watchman, and
so on. The judicial administration consists of the
High Court, the District and Session Courts, the
Court of the District Magistrate and his assistants,
and the Courts of the Subordinate Magistrates,
while there are also Courts of District Munsifs and
Subordinate Judges Courts, both of which only try
civil cases. The law administered is Hindoo, founded
upon the Institutes of Manu, Mohammedan, based
on the Koran, and customary, which is greater than
the other two, but the growth and development of
which has been somewhat checked by the more or
less rigid adherence of our courts to written Hindoo
and Mohammedan law.

The idea of territorial as opposed to personal law
is of modern and European origin. It has always
been assumed that the English brought their own
legal system with them, so that in 1726 their com-
mon law was introduced into the three Presidency
towns. In 1780 the Declaratory' Act laid it down
that Hindoo and Mohammedan laws were to be
applied to Hindoos and Mohammedans, a principle
which was incorporated into subsequent Acts, though
the influence of Western jurisdiction has necessarily
largely leavened the corpus juris administered in
India. It is, however, clearly established that no Act
of Parliament passed subsequently to 1726 applies to
any part of British India unless expressly extended



thereto. Brief reference has already been made to
the creation and constitution of the Legislative
Councils, and in 1892, by the Indian Council Act,
the supreme and local councils were enlarged, the
elective element was tentatively introduced, and
provisions were made for discussion of the Budget.
The Indian Statute Book contains several enact-
ments enabling the executive, in times of trouble, to
suspend the regular law and supersede the ordinary
course of justice. By the Act of 1892, to which
reference is made above, the Governor-General must
summon additional members for the purpose of
legislation, not less than ten and not more than six-
teen in number, one-half of whom must be, and more
than one-half of whom usually are, non-officials.
The nominations to five seats are made on the recom-
mendation of members of the legislative councils at
Madras, Bombay, Calcutta, and Allahabad, and of
the Calcutta Chamber of Commerce. At present it
generally happens that, of twenty-four members of
the Council sitting to make laws and regulations,
one-third are natives of India, but by reason of
the permanent official element provided by the
ordinary members, the Government majority is
assured. Ample opportunity is given for the expres-
sion of the views of the public, and opinions are
invited broadcast before any legislation is effected.
Members have the privilege of asking questions
and discussing the Budget, but cannot propose
resolutions, or on the latter occasion divide the
Council. Every measure passed requires the Gov-



ernor-General's consent and may be disallowed by
the Sovereign. Nor has the Council authority to
repeal or alter the Army Act or any enactment
enabling the Secretary of State to raise money in
the United Kingdom. It possesses, however, power
to make laws binding native Indian subjects any-
where, for European British subjects, and for serv-
ants of the Government in India in the native states,
and for native officers and soldiers, wherever they
are serving. In like manner the Legislative Council
of local governments consists, besides the members
of the Executive Council, of not less than eight,
and not more than twenty, other members, of whom
at least half are non-official. In the four great prov-
inces of Madras, Bombay, Bengal, and the United
Provinces some of these members are appointed on
the recommendations of groups of district boards,
universities, chambers of commerce, and the like
bodies. Codification of law in India has been car-
ried a long way on the road to perfection, since
Lord Macaulay, the first law member of the Gov-
ernor-General's Council and the moving spirit on
the Indian Law Commission, drafted the Penal Code.
Other commissions followed, but the work is now
done by Government, under the guidance of the law
members, and codification, always useful, is particu-
larly valuable hi a country in which the judges
and magistrates are not generally professional law-
yers. European officers and soldiers remain subject
to military law, but native troops are governed
by the Indian enactments in that behalf. In native



states, as a rule, laws are passed by the ruling chief,
with the advice and approval of the political offi-
cers representing the British Government, to which,
however, various rights are reserved arising out of
the fact that, for international purposes, native
states are regarded as part of the British Empire.
Under the Indian High Courts Act of 1861 the
Crown was empowered to establish High Courts
for Bengal, Madras, Bombay, and (later) the United
Provinces; the judges were to be appointed by the
Crown, and at least a third of their number were
to be barristers. Every province is divided into
Sessions divisions, presided over by the Sessions
judge, for whose sentence of death confirmation is
required from the highest Court of Criminal Appeal.
After the Sessions Courts come those of the magis-
trates of different classes, and elaborate arrangements
are made for the right of appeal and for revision.
Civil suits are never tried by jury in India, but by
the District Judge, Subordinate Judge, or Munsifs
and Courts of Small Causes. The civil courts of the
grades below that of district judge are almost entirely
presided over by natives of India, while eight Indians
occupy seats on the benches of the High Court and
two are judges of the Chief Court of the Punjaub.
An appeal from the High Court in civil and certain
criminal cases lies to the Judicial Committee of the
Privy Council. Civil courts are generally excluded
from adjudication of matters relating to the assess-
ment and collection of the land revenue, which are
for the most part disposed of by the collectors, sit-



ting as revenue courts. Considerable criticism is at
present levelled at the combination in the person of
one officer of the functions of collector and magis-
trate. It may be safely stated, however, that this
system, which was inherited, as has been observed
above, from our predecessors in title, is by no means
unpopular with the masses, and that they do not
desire that separation of these functions which is
in fact the rule only in the most advanced Western
countries. In the dearth of more serious causes of
complaint this separation is one of the planks of
the Congress platform, and since it is quite evident
that in the hands of a corrupt or tyrannical officer
such powers might be abused, it is hardly necessary
here to repeat the arguments which are annually
brought forward in favour of separation, a reform
which is indeed now under the consideration of the
Government of India. It may, however, be remarked
that district magistrates try very few cases; that
appeals from the decisions of their subordinate
magistrates do not lie to them; that the creation of
stipendiary magistrates for the disposal of criminal
cases only throughout the country would cost a
great deal of money; that the English educated
classes who expect to be, and would be, appointed
to these offices would naturally and necessarily be
gainers by the change, and that there is every rea-
son to believe that the masses of the people would
prefer that the present system, which provides for
disposal or revision by European magistrates, should
be continued.



It is notorious that the people cry out for adjudi-
cation by British magistrates wherever possible, and
consider them more trustworthy and impartial then
their own fellow-countrymen. The exclusive juris-
diction over Europeans on the part of the Crown
Courts and the independence of all other tribunals,
formerly claimed for them, have now disappeared.
European British subjects may only, however, be
arraigned before a judge or magistrate who is a
Justice of the Peace, and when tried before a dis-
trict magistrate, sessional court, or high court, can
claim a jury of which not less than half the mem-
bers must be Europeans or Americans. Otherwise
Europeans and Indians are subject to the same
criminal and civil jurisdiction. Among the punish-
ments authorised is whipping, in the case of males,
for theft and certain other offences, and, in spite of
objections raised by humanitarian societies, this
short and sudden remedy is by no means unpopular
amongst a people whose ancestors before the advent
of British rule were subject to mutilation as well as
to death, imprisonment, and fine. In describing the
general features of the administration of India, noth-
ing was said regarding local and municipal gov-
ernment, a subject of too great importance to be
disregarded. Villages may be divided into the joint
or landlord village, the type prevailing in the United
Provinces, Frontier Province, and the Punjaub,
and the individual or ryot wari village, which pre-
vails outside Northern India, where the revenue is
assessed on the individual cultivator, and wherein



there is no joint responsibility. In both cases the
usual staff of village officers exists, and the artisans
and traders necessary for a self-sufficing unit. The
Indian village is still an important factor in the
administration, and the headman, accountant, and
watchman have special functions to perform in con-
nection with the collection of the revenue and the
maintenance of law and order. But under Hindoo
and Mohammedan government no system grew
up in the villages, corresponding with that which
is usual in Europe. Representation has always
been altogether foreign to the Hindoo genius, and
the management of villages and of towns resided
not in representatives of the people, but in tax-col-
lectors, police officers, and other officials. In the
days of Akbar, the Kotwal, who was the chief author-
ity in magisterial, police, and fiscal matters, was
directed "not to suffer women to be burnt against
their will, nor a criminal deserving of death to be
impaled, to allot separate quarters to butchers,
hunters of animals, sweepers, and washers of the
dead, and to restrain men from associating with such
stony-hearted and gloomy dispositioned creatures.
He was to amputate the hand of any man who was
the pot companion of the executioner, and the finger
of such as held communication with his family."
Such directions as these, however, from the Ain-i-
akbari can hardly be regarded as relating to muni-
cipal administration, and that system is in fact a
British exotic. True it was introduced in 1687 into
Madras city after a pattern which then obtained,



and still obtains, in London, but the people, then as
now, abhorred the taxes levied for sanitary services.
Nevertheless, the municipalities have continued to
exist in the Presidency towns, and the elective sys-
tem was introduced into them between 1872 and
1878. District municipalities were first attempted
in 1842, based upon the voluntary principle, which
naturally failed amongst a people who have ever
been, and are now, hostile to the whole principle
of local self-government.

The law in this behalf was from time to time
altered and strengthened, and the election of munici-
pal commissioners was made permissive. Lord Mayo
went further, but it was reserved to Lord Ripon to
make a great and general advance. He regarded the
elective system as a means of political and popular
education, and widely extended its bounds, and he
gave towns power to elect non-official chairmen in
place of the executive officers. At the same time,
municipal revenues were relieved of the maintenance
of the police, on condition that they incurred equiva-
lent expenditure on education, medical relief, and
local public works. Lord Ripon's system practically
remains in force, and in 1901 there were 742 district
municipalities in the empire, in the great majority
of which some of the members are elected, and some
nominated by the local government.

The elected members vary in number, from one
half in Bombay to three-quarters in the United
Provinces and Madras, and not more than a quarter
of the members of the committee may be salaried



officers of Government in Madras, Bombay, and
Bengal, while considerable powers of control are in
all cases reserved to Government and its officers.
About two-thirds of the aggregate municipal income
is derived from taxation, and the remainder from
other sources, including Government contributions.
It may safely be stated that the only tax levied by
municipalities which is not exceedingly unpopular
is one to which, in the eyes of European economists,
particular objection attaches the octroi, to which
the people have no particular objection, because
they regard it as identical with the town or transit
duties which were levied under Indian rule. The
administration of Calcutta, by its municipality, has
been a constant source of anxiety to the Government,
though it would be unjust to regard it as a failure
in view of the great difficulties with which it had
to contend. In 1899 the number of commissioners
was reduced from 75 to 50, of whom 25 are elected,
15 are appointed by the local government, 4
by the Bengal Chamber of Commerce, and other
native associations, and 2 by the Commissioners
of the Port, and the action of Government, though
called for by the imminence of plague, was resented
by the advanced politicians of Bengal as interfer-
ence with popular government. The development
of local institutions in rural areas has been accom-
plished through the agency of local boards, which in
the beginning, like municipalities, partook of a vol-
untary character.

In 1871 acts were passed in every province divid-


ing the country into local fund circles, and creating
consultation boards nominated by the Government,
with the Collector as president. Local taxation
was now introduced, and in 1882 Lord Ripon replaced
the local committee by a network of boards, on which
the non-official element preponderated, and the
elective principle was recognised in the same way as
in municipalities, but the degree to which this sys-
tem has been introduced is not constant, but varies
in different provinces. Provincial rates yield 60
per cent, of the income of local boards, and of these
the land-cess is the most important.

Although the extension of local self-government
has always been regarded in some quarters as a
stepping-stone of the progress towards an ill-defined
and indefinite goal, before reaching which the inhab-
itants of India must have entirely changed their
character and outlook, yet it must be admitted that
it is almost the most unpopular of all branches of
our administrative activities.

The writer would confess that, for his part, he
found on all sides nothing but discontent with the
taxation imposed for this purpose, and dissatisfac-
tion with the result. These feelings do not extend
by any means to the lawyer class, who almost invari-
ably acquire power and influence upon such boards,
but the aristocracy, and the masses of the people,
whose feelings such aristocracy pretty faithfully
represents, have no hesitation in expressing to any
European with whom they are on terms of friend-
ship their dislike and distrust of the whole business,



and particularly of that very representative prin-
ciple which is regarded as its glory by its founders
and admirers. Officers of the Government rarely
place themselves in communication at first hand with
the people, other than with those who have been
denationalised by Western education, and who take
care in every district to form a camarilla, through
which alone information reaches the English officer,
who cannot, without a knowledge of the native
languages, and considerable originality and deter-
mination of character, break loose from his bonds.
It is only by incurring the absolute enmity of the
class which is known in Bengal as the Babus, and
exists to some extent in every province, that the
English official can associate at all with those who
represent ninety-nine in one hundred of the popula-
tion of his charge. So difficult is it to perform this
feat, so absolutely necessary is it to the success of
the intrigues of the Babu class to prevent communi-
cation between the people and their rulers, that
slanders are widely circulated concerning the official
who would seek the truth, and efforts, by no means
always unsuccessful, are freely made to damage him
with his superiors, by means of anonymous charges,
in the concoction of which the writers and agita-
tors of India are extremely adept. There is no
feature of local self-government which is so thor-
oughly unpopular as the representative principle.
No man of any position amongst his countrymen
will submit himself, at any rate in rural districts,
to the ordeal of election, or the chance of having to



accept as his colleagues persons of low caste and
slight consideration. There is, too, an indisposition
to accept the vexatious and exacting requirements
of public life, and little doubt exists that the inhabit-
ants of the districts, if they could be polled, would,
by enormous majorities, vote for leaving all admin-
istrative business in the hands of the impartial and
professional administrator who represents the British
Government and is their local providence. Another
branch of the administration which is subject to
perpetual criticism on the part of the Babu class
is the police not the village police, but the regular
established force, working under Government. In
1902 Lord Curzon's Government appointed a com-
mission to inquire into the police administration, a
measure which is held by very competent authorities
to have conduced in no small degree to that want of
respect for authority, that disposition to disaffec-
tion, and that spirit of unrest which has of late been
only too conspicuous in Eastern Bengal, and which
spread, not without active assistance from the agi-
tators of Calcutta, to other parts of India, and
particularly to certain districts in the Punjaub.



IT is doubtful if any country in the world can
show such an advance in prosperity as can Brit-
ish India during the sixty years ending with
the year 1900, in which the total value of imports
and exports has risen from 28 to 246 crores 1 of rupees,
and the gross revenue from 21 to 113 crores. The
expenditure has increased pari passu, as salaries have
been raised in amount and increased in number,
public instruction and medical relief have been organ-
ised, and vast sums have been spent in irrigation,
railways, post office, telegraphs, and sanitation. It
is claimed in behalf of the Government that the
growth in the revenue is due to increasing prosperity
and better management, and not to increasing bur-
dens on the tax-payer, and, as shown in the chapter
on land revenue, this contention may be considered
to be fairly sustained. In regard, however, to local
cesses and rates, it is doubtful if the people who pay
would complacently accept the position taken up by
their rulers, and whether they would not prefer to
be without some of the services of Western civilisa-
tion and to retain some of the money collected from

1 A crore of rupees is 666,666.



them on this account, either to keep it in their own
pockets, bury it underground, or to spend it accord-
ing to their own inclinations upon festivals and cere-
monies. The comparison made with the year 1860
in the latest official publication on this subject is
not altogether conclusive, because sources of tax-
ation had been tapped before that date which were
new to the people of India. Income-tax, for instance,
is at a lower rate than that imposed in 1860, but there
was a time before 1860 when there was no income-
tax at all, and it was subsequent to 1860 that the
unpopular municipal and rural rates came into
being. Of the total income of 85,000,000 sterling
in 1904-1905, more than 6,000,000 were derived
from sources other than taxation and land revenue,
and the latter receipt, the largest of all the individ-
ual items in Europe, would fall to the private land-
lord. The direct taxation of the Moguls, raised
from a much smaller population and cultivated area,
and at a time when the purchasing power of the
rupee was much higher, was heavier than that now
levied by the Indian Government. One of the
most important reforms introduced into the exist-
ing financial system was Lord Mayo's innovation of
making a fixed grant to each local Government for
provincial services, and thus giving them an interest
in effecting economies which had previously been
wanting; but hardly had the benefit of this change
made itself felt, when that decline commenced in
the value of silver which so severely tried the stabil-
ity of Indian revenues.



Next Lord Lytton endeavoured to obtain an
annual surplus of Ij crores, to be applied to the
reduction or avoidance of debt, and thus to provide
for expenditure on famine, and in 1882 the general
import duties were abolished, though they subse-
quently had to be reimposed. Meanwhile exchange
continued to fall, and a drop of a penny meant an
addition of over a crore to the expenditure. The

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Online LibraryJ. D. (John David) ReesIndia; the real India (Volume 19) → online text (page 8 of 21)