Legal history: Radha Charan case

A) 1773 regulating act
Prior to the introduction of the 1773 regulating act there existed company courts in the case of Calcutta which was brought by Warren Hastings namely the mofussil and Sadar courts. 1773 regulating act was introduced not with the purpose of a better administration, but rather to regulate the affairs of the East India Company, which faced many financial problems due to wars with other states in India. This lead to the East India company demanding a loan from the Crown, in order to avoid such happening in the future the crown introduced 1773 regulating act.


Under the act, the governor-general in council was established with Warren Hastings as the Governor-general. The provinces of Madras and Bombay were also put under the control of the Governor-general in council with a few exceptions. The regulating act also established a legislative function, this legislative had the power to make rules and regulations which had to be listed in the Supreme Court and approved by it.

There were a lot of defects when it came to the regulating act of 1773 which were addressed by the crown by introducing the 1781 settlement act.

1) The law that was to be applied was not mentioned by the 1773 regulating act, in cases of natives, it was often seen that the Supreme Court applied the English law rather than the native laws and customs.
2) The jurisdiction as defined under the regulating act appeared to be very vague, words such as his majesty subject were not defined. When it came to words to like indirectly employed by the company it did not mention who was subject to the jurisdiction whether Indians were subject to the jurisdiction.
These minor conflicts led to several conflicts as Lord North defines in the Coosijurah case of 1779 that the judiciary and the executive almost took arms against each other. The governor- general at many places claimed that the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court did not apply to Zamindar, or any company court, whereas the Supreme Court claimed that it had jurisdiction to try any company court and all citizens residing in Calcutta. Unfortunately, the 1773 act did more harm, its real intention was only bought out with the introduction of the 1781 settlement act.

Raja Nandkumar and Radha Charan case

Nandkumar was an Indian tax official, most familiar for his connection with Warren Hastings, the first Governor-General of Bengal. He was nominated as the collector of Burdwan in 1764 in place of Hastings, which resulted in a historical-standing enmity. Thus was initiated the case of Nandkumar. Within the period of 11th and 13th March 1775, Nandkumar (1705-1775) sent several letters and other documents implicating Hastings in fraudulent practices to the Governor-General’s Council in Calcutta. A majority of the Councillors – Sir Philip Francis (1740-1818), George Monson (1730-1776), and John Clavering (1722-.1777), declared their intention of investigating the charges of Hastings’ presumed taking of a bribe. Their resolution and evidence were forwarded to the Company’s attorney in London. On 6th May 1775, John Hyde (c.1737-1796) and Stephen Le Matstre (d. 1777), Justices of the Supreme Court of Calcutta, were acting as Justices of the Peace.

They committed Nandkumar to trial on the charge of forgery as provided for within the English law of forgery. Within the period of 8th to16th June 1775, Nandkumar came to trial for forgery in the facilities of the old Mayor’s Court in Calcutta. On receipt of the case, the Jury required only an hour to determine a guilty verdict. Nandkumar’s case had already taken a hideous turn in the hands of the implicating masters when the lawmakers had attempted to debase Nandkumar and his strong statement against Hastings. However, the case’s final findings were completely unprecedented for the native population. On 5th August 1775, Nandkumar was hanged. The case of Nandakumar however had an immense impact on the
British law system and changes in the arena of administration, law, and overall governance were witnessed.

Radha Charan was the vakeel of Nawab of Bengal, along with Nandkumar and Fawkes, Radha Charan was also charged by the governor-general, Warren Hastings. The defense of Radha Charan was that since he was employed under the nawab he was not subject to the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court, on the other hand, claimed that it was a mere excuse and no one can escape in the name of Nawab, the Supreme Court even to the extent said that the Nawab had no sovereignty, hence Nawab was also subject to the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court.

Conclusion

The Supreme Court, in this case, an ignorant judgment, which can also be said was against the spirit of 1773 regulating act, the powers of Nawab were completely destroyed he was said to have no sovereignty and also was subject to the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court, what this did was that it increased the power of crown over the Non-European residents residing in Calcutta and also as observed in the Nandkumar case the personal laws of the defendants were not given due consideration. Post Radha Charan’s judgment, the Supreme court in many cases subjected residents whoever not even under the employment of the company to its jurisdiction. This vague interpretation of the Supreme Court leads to the 1781 settlement act.

The Supreme Court was also very executive-minded, right from the Nandkumar case, Sir Elijah Impey a close friend of Warren Hastings, decided the case in his favor. This approach of the Supreme Court raises questions about its purpose, it is in my opinion that rather than having a Supreme Court without any explained Jurisdiction, the regulating act should have increased the powers of Sadar Diwani Adalat by employing Indian judges, this would have increased the public confidence of the people on the company. The crown should also have properly defined the jurisdiction of the Company Court and the crown courts, Nawab, and Indians who were not employed under the company should not have been subjected to
the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court. Considering all this Supreme Court had also a positive role in the Patna case. Ultimately, the efforts of the Crown as it envisaged the Supreme Court was sunk by the settlement act in 1781.

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