Cossijurah Case

One Cossinaut Baboo had lent a large sum of money to the Zamindar or Raja of Cossijurah. He had tried in vain to obtain this money through the Board of Revenue at Calcutta. He, therefore, sued the Raja in the Supreme Court and filed an affidavit in August, 1779 which stated that the Raja was employed in the collection of revenue and was, therefore, amenable to the Court’s jurisdiction. The Collector of Midnapore, in whose district the Raja resided, informed the Governor-General-in-Council about this development and said that the Raja was hiding himself in order to avoid service of the writ to a great loss of the revenue.

The council , after having obtained the opinion of the Advocate- General, issued a notification to all landholders informing them that they were under no obligation to pay any attention to the process of the Court unless they were servants of the Company or had subjected themselves by their own consent to the jurisdiction of the Court. A special direction to the same effect was issued to the Raja of Cossijurah, who thereupon took no notice of the further process of the Court. His people drove away the Sheriff and his officers when they tried to arrest him under the writ of capias.

The Supreme Court, thereupon, issued another writ to sequestrate the property of the Raja to compel his appearance. The Sheriff with a small armed force of men marched to Cossijurah in order to execute the writ, seized the person of the Raja violently, outraged the sanctity of the family idol and broke into the Zanana. In the meanwhile, the English Commander of troops at Midnapore marched with a force of sepoys against the Sheriff’s party and arrested them in execution of the orders of the Governor-General-in-Council. The process to arrest the Commander for contempt was also prevented by military force.

At last, Cossinaut Baboo brought an action for trespass against Warren Hastings and members of the Council individually. At first they entered appearances but when they found that they were sued for acts done by them in their official capacity, they withdrew and would not submit to any process of the Court against them. The Council made an announcement to all persons in Bengal out of Calcutta that they were not to take any notice of the process of the Court; if the Court attempted to enforce its process, the Council would prevent it by military force.

In this case the action of the Council has been criticized as quite illegal and most violent without any justification, but it is natural and intelligible. The councillors hated the Supreme Court. It represented an authority which the servants of the Company practically repudiated. It represented English law which again they hated both for its defects and merits. It was a matter of great grievance to them that the Zamindars should be interfered with if, în order to pay the revenue punctually, they squeezed their ryots in a way which the English lawyers regarded as oppressive or extortionate. Though not sure, they thought that the Court violated the Regulating Act by acting beyond the jurisdiction given by it. To be sure, the best course open for them was to have a ruling from the Court and to test its correctness by an appeal to the King-in-Council. But they adopted a simpler course; they had the military force in their hands as well as the public feeling and preferred to use that force. According to J. F. Stephen this was a wrong position according to certain historians.


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