Charter of 1726


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. This Charter became an important landmark in the legal history of India due to its various vital provisions having far reaching consequences. By this Charter the Admiralty Court of Madras has been abolished and thereupon enlarged the power of Mayor’s Court of Madras, Calcutta and Bombay. This Charter was introduced a uniform judicial machinery for justice in India. By this Charter the Civil and Criminal Courts entrusted the authority directly from the King. Not from the Company. The Charter of 1726 played an important role in introducing English Common Law Statutory law in India.

Main Reasons or Aims of Issuing the Charter of 1726

The main reasons which necessitated the Charter of 1726 are as follows —

1. The judicial administration and the working of the courts in the three Presidency towns of India was unsatisfactory.

2. With the growth in Company’s trade and commercial activities in India, the population of British Settlements had increased considerably, and therefore, more cases were coming to the courts for adjudication.

3. The Company desired that the power of courts should be derived from a competent authority so that their decisions would have a binding force and uniformity in judicial administration could be achieved.

4. Encouraged by the successful working of the Corporation at Madras, the Company wanted to establish similar Corporations at Bombay and Calcutta also.

5. Many Englishmen who settled in India died leaving behind them considerable movable and immovable property. This created problems before the Company relating to distribution and disposal of their assets.

Although the Mayor’s Court of Madras established in 1687 was empowered to decide testamentary cases but its decisions were not recognised by the Court in England because it was a Court of the Company and not of British Crown. Therefore, the Company was involved in unnecessary litigation in England at the instance of the relatives of the deceased who died interstate in India. To avoid this, there was a need of a court in each Presidency which could take cognizance of testamentary and interstate succession cases deriving their authority from the British Crown. Thus, in order to solve the above mentioned problems and to establish an effective administration of justice in the Company’s settlements in the three presidencies. The Judicial Charter was granted by the British King George I on September 24, 1726 at the instance of East India Company.

Provisions of the Charter of 1726

The main provisions of the Charter of 1726 were as follows–

1. Establishment of a Corporation at Bombay and Calcutta– The Charter provided for the establishment of a Corporation at Bombay and Calcutta like the one which already existed in Madras. Thus, each of the Presidency towns was to have a Corporation consisting of a Mayor and nine Aldermen. The Mayor and seven of the Aldermen were to be natural born British subjects while the two Aldermen could be of any nationality. The first Mayor and Aldermen were to be appointed by the Charter itself. Thereafter, the Mayor was to be elected annually by the Aldermen. The Aldermen were to hold office for life or till their residence in the Presidency town. They could, however, be removed by the Governor, in Council on a reasonable cause. An appeal against such a removal could be made to the King in Council in England. The Mayor and all the Aldermen had to take an oath of allegiance to the office before the Governor and Council.

2. Civil Administration and establishment of Mayor’s Court in Presidency Towns – The Mayor and nine Aldermen of each Corporation formed a Court of Record which was called the Mayor’s Court’. It was empowered to decide all the civil cases within the Presidency town and the factories subordinate thereto. The Mayor together with two other English Aldermen formed the quorum. The Court also exercised testamentary jurisdiction. It could grant probates of will and Letters of Administration in case of intestacy. The Court was to hold its sitting not more than three times a week. An appeal from the decision of the Mayor’s Court lay to the Governor and Council. But in cases involving the value of subject-matter above 1,000 pagodas, a further appeal lay to the King in Council.

Being a Court of Record, the Mayor’s Court could punish persons for its contempt. The process of the Court was to be executed by the Sheriffs, the junior members of the court who were initially nominated but subsequently chosen annually by the Governor and Council. There was no specific mention in the Charter of 1726 as to the law which was to be applicable in the Mayor’s Court but since the earlier Charter of 1661 provided that justice was to be administered in accordance with the English law, it was presumed that the same law was to be followed by the Mayor’s Court in deciding the cases.

3. Criminal Administration and establishment of Quarter Sessions – The Governor and five senior members of the Council were appointed as Justice of Peace in each Presidency for the administration of criminal justice. They could arrest persons accused of crimes and punish them for petty offences. They also constituted a Court of Oyer. Terminer and Gaol Delivery and were also required to hold Quarter Sessions for trial of all offences excepting high treason for at least four times a year. The Charter of 1726 introduced the trial of criminal offences with the help of ‘Grand’ and ‘Petty’ juries. Thus, technical forms and procedures of criminal judicature of England were introduced through this Charter in India.

4. Jury Trial in Criminal Cases – The Charter of 1726 provided that criminal cases in Presidencies be decided with the help of Grand Jury and Petty Jury. The Grand Jury which consisted of 23 persons, was entrusted with the task of presenting persons suspected of having committed a crime. Besides, before the commencement of trial, all the evidence of the prosecution, accusation or indictment was placed before the Grand Jury, who was to return a verdict whether there was a case for trial or not. In case the Grand Jury returned a verdict of ‘no Prima facie case’, the accused was acquitted without trial,

5. Conferment of Legislative Powers on Governor and Council– The Charter of 1726 empowered the Governor and Council of each Presidency town to make bye-laws, rules and ordinances for the regulation of the Corporations and inhabitants of the Presidencies. They would also prescribe punishment for the breach of such laws and rules. The bye-laws, rules and ordinances so framed and the punishments prescribed for breach thereof, were to be reasonable and not contrary to the laws of England and they could not be effective unless approved and confirmed by the Company’s Court of Directors in England.

Merits of Charter of 1726

Taking into consideration the abovementioned provisions of reforms, we can say that the following were the merits of the Charter of 1726 –

(i) Establishment of Crowns Court-This Charter has, for the first time established the courts of Crown. The courts established so far were the courts of company.

(ii) Uniformity in Judicial System – This Charter has, for the first the established Mayor’s Court in all the three presidencies i.e. Calcutta, Bombay and Madras.

(iii) Provisions of Appeal to Privy Council for the first time-For the first time a provision was made to appeal to Privy Council from the decisions of Mayor’s Court.

(iv) Application of English Law in Indian Soil – This Charter has for the first time introduced English law into Indian soil. Where there was no express provision of law, the judges used to decide the dispute on the basis of “equity, justice and good conscience.”

(v) Establishment of Legislative Councils – The Charter of 1726 for the first time, established local legislative councils in which the Governor with the aid of his council used to make bye-laws, rules and ordinances for the regulation of the corporations and inhabitants of the presidencies. Before 1726, the law making powers were vested in the company which could be exercised only by the. “Court of Director” of the company in England.

On account of the above mentioned merits, the Charter of 1726 constitutes a landmark i.e, a turning point in the legal history of India and proved to be an important event on account of the great significance in the sphere of law and justice, the charter is usually characterised as
the judicial charter”

Demerits of Charter of 1726

In spite of the above noted merits of the Charter of 1726, there were two traditional defects of this charter –

(1) Appointment of Non-lawmen Judges – Before 1726, the traders were to be appointed on the office of judges who were ignorant of law. As judges their main aim was to bring about the settlement between the contesting parties. Even after the establishment of Crown’s Court, in
1726 justice continued to be administered by non-professional judges. Thus, the object of the Charter of 1726 could not be fulfilled.

(ii) No separation of Judicial and Executive power is made -Although many attempts were made to separate judicial and executive powers from one another yet the policy of the company was not firm in this respect. The Charter of 1726 also did not admit this division and an was maintained.

Importance of Charter of 1726

The Charter of 1726 had made along departure from the earlier charters and had made some fundamental changes in the judicial administration. The charter for the first time established the Crown’s Court in India, Hitherto whatever courts existed they had their origin from the company’s but the courts established by this Charter were the Royal Courts having full recognition in British legal system. The Charter brought about a uniform judicial system in all the three presidencies and different types of systems existing till then were abolished. For the first time the jurisdiction of the Privy Council was extended to this country. Here lies the beginning of the introduction of English lay into India through judiciary. For the first time a legislature for each presidency with the power of making necessary laws was established by this charter. The Charter of 1726 is also very important in the sense that this charter introduced into presidency towns the law of England – both Common and Statutory as it then stood. Thus, on the basis of the facts stated above, we can say that the Charter of 1726 makes a turning point in the legal history of India.



Discuss the merits and demerits of judicial system established under the Charter of 1726.


Describe in short the provisions of Charter of 1726. What were the main aims of issuing this charter ? How far it could succeed in achieving its aims ?


Charter of 1726 makes a turning point in the legal history of India ? Discuss the importance of Charter of 1726 in the light of the above observation.


The year of 1726 marked the beginning of a new era in the evolution of a judicial institution in India. Discuss.


Charter Act, 1726 introduced the English law for the first time in Indian soil. Discuss.


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