The Administration of Justice in Madras

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Submitted By atendra31
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The Administration of Justice in Madras in the Seventeenth Century
Posted by Law Matters on 5/23/06 • Categorized as History,Primers
The administration of justice in Madras in the seventeenth century can, by and large, be divided into two periods – that between1639 and 1665, and that between 1665 and 1687.
Francis Day acquired a piece of land from a Hindu Raja in 1639. The Company built a Fort on it and called it Fort St. George. The Raja also granted the Company the power and the authority to govern a nearby village called Madraspatam.
Madras, as it came to be known, was an amalgamation of Madraspatam or Black Town where the Indians lived and Fort St George or White Town where the British lived. It was an ‘Agency’ which was subordinate to Surat, the only Presidency of the time. It was headed by an Agent who had a Council to assist him.
During the first period between1639 and 1665, the administration of justice was neither systematic nor regular. For example, when, in 1641, an Indian was accused of murdering a woman he was living with, no formal trial was held. A few questions were asked and the woman’s clothes and jewellery was (not too surprisingly) found in his house. That was deemed to be enough to condemn him, and the Agent communicated his findings to the Raja. The Raja ordered punishment to be inflicted according to English law – the condemned man was hanged to death.
In White Town, it was administered by the Agent in Council who not only had vague and indefinite powers but who also hesitated to use what powers he had in serious criminal cases which were therefore referred to England.
In Black Town, the British did not even initially attempt to administer justice. The allowed the traditional Choultry Courts to function without interference. In these courts, village headmen (known as Adigaars) acted as judges and tried minor civil and criminal offences.…...

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