Warren Hastings Judicial Plan of 1772 and 1774


Judicial Plan of 1772 and 1774 was introduced by Warren Hastings. He remained Governor of Bengal from 1772 to 1774. In 1774 he was promoted to the rank of Governor-General. He remained on this post till 1785. He was a competent and an efficient administrator. The administration of justice at the time Warren Hastings took over as Governor of Bengal was in a bad shape. It was almost verging on a total collapse. The dual system of government proved very defective and unsatisfactory. The courts had become the instruments of power rather than of justice.. Warren Hastings who assumed office of Governor of Fort Willam on April 13, 1772, made strenuous efforts to remove the evils in the existing judicial administration and revenue collection: For this purpose, he appointed a committee consisting of the Governor and four members of the Council called the ‘Committee of Circuit’: The Committee prepared a Judicial Plan on August 15, 1772 to regulate the administration of justice and revenue collection. This plan was popularly known as the ‘Hastings Plan of 1772.’

Hasting’s Judicial Plan of 1772

This Plan consisted of 37 regulations dealing with civil and criminal laws. He divided the Diwani area of Bengal, Bihar and Orissa into several districts, each having an English officer called the Collector’ as its head. Thus ‘district’ was the unit of administration for justice and revenue collection. The Collector was primarily responsible for collection of revenue. The main features of Judicial Plan of 1772 are as under –

1. Reforms made in Revenue Administration – The whole revenue system was re-organised. The Revenue Boards at Murshidabad and Patna were abolished and a supreme authority called the Board of Revenue was set up in Calcutta which consisted of the Governor and all the members of the Council. The District Supervisors who were appointed in 1769 by Verelst were made Collector of their respective districts and were to look after the work of revenue collection. He was assisted by a native officer called the Naib Diwan who acted as a native revenue executive. All orders were to be issued by the Collector under the Company’s seal and funds were to pass through him to the treasury at Calcutta. The Board of Revenue comprising Governor and his Councillors at Calcutta sat twice a week for issuing necessary orders and instructions to the Collectors of Districts and inspecting, auditing, and passing the revenue accounts.

2. Reforms made in the Administration of Civil Justice – The following three types of courts were established for the purpose of making reforms in the existing judicial system-

(1) Mofussil Diwani Adalat – In each district, a Mofussil Diwani Adalat was established which was presided over by the Collector as the Judge. The Court took cognizance of all civil cases including property, inheritance, succession, caste, marriage, contracts, accounts etc. The cases relating to caste, religion, marriage and inheritance of the natives were to be decided according to their usages and customs of Hindu law for Hindus and Muslim law for Mohammedans was applied. The Collector being an Englishman, was ignorant about the personal laws of natives, hence he was assisted by native laws officers called Kazi and Pandits who expounded the law to him. The Court held its sittings twice a week in open court. The matters relating to succession to Zamindari and Taluqdari property could not be submitted to Mofussil court as they were reserved for the Governor and Council. Appeals from these courts were to be heard by the Sadar Diwani Adalat at Calcutta where the subject-matter of the case exceeded rupees five hundred.

(ii) Small Causes Adalats – There were Small Causes Adalats headed by the Head Farmer of the Pergunnah decided cases upto the value of rupees ten.

(iii) Sader Diwani Adalat – A Sadar Diwani Adalat was established at Calcutta which exercised appellate jurisdiction over Mofussil Diwani Adalats in all cases where the subject matter of the suit exceeded Rs.500/-. This Court comprised Governor as its President and at least two members of the Council aided by Diwan of Treasury and Chief Kanungos.

3. Reforms made in the Administration of Criminal Justice-For the purpose of reforming the criminal administration of justice two types of courts were established –

(i) Mofussil Nijamat Adalat -A court of Criminal Judicature called the Fauzdari Adalat was established in each district. It tried serious offences including murder, robbery, theft, fraud, perjury etc. This Court was assisted by a Kazi or Mufti and two Moulvies who expounded the Mohammedan law of crimes. The mufti was supposed to be a person well versed in the Mohammedan Law of crimes and his function was to expound the law and give ‘futwa’ after hearing the parties in evidence.

But the Collector exercised overall supervision on the working of the Fouzdari Adalat. He was enjoined to see that all necessary witnesses were summoned and examined and the decision was fair and impartial in accordance with the well settled principles of law and procedure.

(ii) Sadar Nizamat Adalat – A superior court called the Sadar Nizamat Adalat was established at Calcutta which exercised control over Fouzdari Adalats. It was presided by an Indian judge known as the Daroga-i-Adalat who was to be assisted by the chief Kazi, chief Mufti and three Moulvies. These persons were appointed by the Nawab on the advice of the Governor. The Court was to revise all the proceedings of the Fouzdari Adalats; and signify its approbation or disapprobation in capital cases with reasons, and to prepare the sentence for the warrant of the Nizam. The Governor and council exercised general supervision over the proceedings of Sadar Nizamat Adalat so that even handed justice could be ensured without fear or favour.

Thus, Fouzdari Adalats were not empowered to award death sentence, but they were required to transmit the evidence in capital cases with their opinion to the Sadar Nizamat Court for final decision. Again, fines over one hundred rupees were to be confirmed by the Sadar Court, which alone could decree forfeiture or confiscation of property. The dacoits were to be executed in their own village and the entire village was fined. The family members of the dacoits were made State-slaves.

Contribution of Warren Hastings in the preservation of Indian Laws

The Judicial Plan of 1772 safeguarded the personal laws of Hindus and Muslims. The cases relating to inheritance, marriage, caste etc. were to be decided according to the laws of Quran with regard to Muslims, and laws of Shastras with respect to the Hindus. Both, Hindus and Muslims treated alike. This provision shows the foresightedness of Hastings as an efficient administrator. He even favoured the compilation of a digest of Hindu Law for the guidance of Civil Courts. Thus, he tried to correct the defects of the preceding judicial and revenue system without interfering with the local traditions and customs of the natives.

Although the judges of the Adalats were Englishmen but they were assisted by the Native law officer who expounded personal laws of parties and enlightened them with the traditions, customs and usages of the natives. The participation of native law officers in the judicial system infused confidence and trust among the native inhabitants about the impartiality of English judges.

Thus, the Judicial Plan of 1772 paved foundation for sound judicial system in subsequent years. Prof. M. P. Jain said that the foundation of Anglo Indian Justice was laid down by Warren Hastings, over which the later administrators specially Lord Cornwallis built up the upper-structure of judicial administration.

Since the working of the judicial scheme under the Plan of 1772 resulted into a considerable loss of revenue earnings of the Company’s Government. Consequently, in 1773, the Court of Directors directed the Governor and Council in Calcutta, to withdraw Collectors from districts. Obviously, this needed a fresh Plan which Warren Hastings introduced in 1774 to be known as the “System of Provincial Council”.

Judicial Plan of 1774

The abolition of the institution of Collector in 1773 on the advice of the Court of Directors of the Company in England up-set the judicial arrangement of 1772 and a new Plan became an urgent need of the time. Warren Hastings prepared a new Plan on November 23, 1773 which was implemented in January, 1774. The new judicial reforms of Hastings can be discussed under the following three heads:-

1. Establishment of Provincial Council for Civil Justice – Under the Judicial Plan of 1774 the entire Diwani area of Bengal, Bihar and Orissa was divided into six divisions with headquarters at Calcutta, Burdwan, Murshidabad, Dinajpore, Dacca and Patna. Each division consisted of several districts. A ‘Provincial Council’ consisting of five covenanted servants of the Company was established in each of these divisions except Calcutta where a ‘Committee of Revenue was set up.
These Councils supervised the revenue collection in the Division and heard appeals from the Mofussil Diwani Adalats from the districts within its territorial jurisdiction.

Recall of Collector and Appointment of Diwan– The post of Collector having been abolished in 1773 now each district was placed, in charge of an Indian officer called the ‘Diwan’ or the ‘Amil. His main function was to look after the work of revenue collection in his district. He also presided over the Mofussil Diwani Adalat of the district which was previously presided by the Collector.
Appeals from Mofussil Diwani Adalats were to be taken to the Provincial Council, which in this capacity was known as the Provincial Court of Appeal, the decision of the Provincial Court of Appeal (Provincial Council) was final in all cases upto the value of Rs. 1,000/- but if the value of the subject matter of the suit exceeded this amount, a further appeal lay to the Sadar Diwani Adalat.
The Provincial Council also had original jurisdiction to decide all cases arising at the headquarters of the division, in the first instance. Thus, the Provincial Council had both, the original as well as the appellate jurisdiction over civil cases. It was also empowered to hear complaints against the head farmers,Naib Diwans, Zamindars and other officers of the Government.

2. Establishment of Board of Revenue at Calcutta for Revenue Administration – The head of the district, i.e., the Diwan was to collect revenue under the supervision of the Provincial Council. The Provincial Councils were to supervise revenue collection in their respective divisions. They were further subjected to overall control and supervision of the Board of Revenue at Calcutta.

3. Establishment of the Court of Naib Nazim or Diwan for Criminal Justice – Under the Judicial Plan of 1774, the supervision of the Collector on the working of the Mofussil Fouzdari Adalats and that of the Governor and Council over the Sadar Fouzdari Adalat, came to an end. Now Sadar Fouzdari Adalat was shifted from Calcutta to Murshidabad and placed under the supervision and control of the  Nawab. A new office of Naib Nazim was created who controlled the working of the Sadar Nizamat Adalat on behalf of the Nawab. Mohammad Raza Khan was appointed as Naib-Nazim.



Q. Write a note on the Warren Hastings Judicial Plan of 1772 and 1774 and indicate its influence on the system of administration of justice of India.


Write a note on the reforms made by Warren Hastings in the administration of law and justice in Bengal. What is his special contribution for the preservation of Indian Law ?


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