(Last Updated on : 29-01-2009)
In May 1793, the Cornwallis Code emerged as a legal code, representing a compilation of forty-eight regulations. Drafted by Sir George Barlow (1762-1846), it included measures covering both civil and criminal law.
In Bengal, the code provided for the Governor-in-Council to form both the Sadar Diwani Adalat (Civil) and Sadar Nizamat Adalat (Criminal). In 1801, these appellate duties were transferred from the executive to the Supreme Court of Calcutta.
The Cornwallis Code further established four Provincial Courts of Appeal located in Calcutta, Murshidabad
, Dacca and Patna
. Provincial courts were further developed in 1795 at Benaras and in 1803 at Bareilly
. These courts handled cases on appeal from the District Courts of Bengal to prevent overloading the Sadar Diwani Adalat in Calcutta. Each Provincial Court accepted appeals from six to nine District Courts. They consisted of three English judges, which were later raised to four. They provided original justice in the case of criminal trials.
Within the district, the Zillah court system provided primary civil justice and the Nizamat Adalat for criminal cases of the first instance. With these systemic developments, the Collector gave up his judicial duties.
Cornwallis Code of 1793 further removed the judicial duties formerly held by the Collector and passed them to the Diwani Adalat established in each district. It included guidelines for the appropriate use of Hindu or Mohammedan laws.
In order to reduce the caseloads at the district level, Commissions consisting of Indian officials were developed to hear cases not exceeding 50 rupees in value.
The regulation further enacted that judges could commute the sentences of mutilation and amputation awarded by the Jutwa of Mohammedan law to hard labour for seven years.
The Cornwallis Code provided for the appointment of 'vakils', or Indian pleaders to serve in the courts of civil judicature in Bengal, Bihar
. The Sadar Diwani Adalat licensed the Hindu and Mohammedan pleaders. When required, "public pleaders" could be employed to represent the government when it was a party. This measure empowered the Governor-General to appoint covenanted servants of the Company as Justices of the Peace.
In 1793, the position of the Law Officer developed within the judicial system in Bengal and then later in the other presidencies. If a Hindu, the Law officer was termed a Pandit and if Muslim, a Koran Mulla. The Law Officer advised judges of Zillah, City Courts, and Sadar Courts of Issues regarding the personal law of Hindus and Muslims.
In 1795, Lord Cornwallis revived a system of fees, or stamp duties on cases to discourage the introduction of frivolous cases in Bengal. The fee structure was further enhanced in 1797.