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Judicial System

Judicial System

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Published by: swamy_me on Nov 20, 2009
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Judicial system
The king Shivaji got himself crowned in 1674 accord-ing to Vedic rites. 31 As a Hindu monarch, he became the judicialhead of the Maratha state, both for temporal and ecclesiasticalmatters. 32 To perform these duties, therefore, he included 'in hiscouncil two special ministers, the Nyayadhish or Chief Justice andthe Panditrav or Minister for Religion. 88 According to the ancientTraditions of the Hindus, he used to try suits, with the help of hisMinisters (the Rajmudra) and others in an open court known as theDharmasabha (judicial assembly) or Huzur Hazir Majlis,*' 1 and never heard them alone. He continued the local system of trial by Majlisand often referred to the Gotas, the suits brought to him. 35 This systemwas continued by his successors upto Shahu. 36The Nyayadhish and the Panditrav. Next to the king cornethe Nyayadhish and the Panditrav, appointed by him and responsibleto him. The office of Panditrav will be considered in detail whiledealing with explanations in Chapter VI.Kawun Jabta lays down the duties of a Nyayadhish as follows :"The Nyayadhish should have jurisdiction over all suits in the king-dom and should try them according to the principles laid down byDharma (Law). He should add the word 'Sammat 9 (approved) to the judgment-deed. 87The office of the Nyayadhish (Chief Justice) was purely civil.But the first few of them, Niraji Rauji, Pralhad Niraji, and HonajiAnant were also commanders.The Huzur Hazir Majlis or DharmasabhaAlong with the king and his Nyayadhish, the Huzur Hazir Majlis or Dharmasabha (central judicial assembly) played an im- portant part in the administration of justice. Its early developmentis notable.At the beginning of his career Shivaji being a Jagirdar of theBijapur government dispensed justice with the help of his officersand the Gota through Majlis.** As a Maratha monarch, after his coro-nation, he used to decide important suits with the help of the Dhar-masabha. 53 Thus even in his central justiciary he adopted the principleof a trial by Majlis which was prevalent in the local administrationunder the Sultans of the Deccan. The Dharmasabha is nothing but an evolved form of the- Majlis of a Paragana, and resembles partly its old Hindu proto-type as described in Hindu Law Books.
 
JUDICIAL INSTITUTIONS UNDER SHIVAJI etc. 35It consisted of members of the Rajmandal and other stateofficers (Rajmudra), and the Goto,. The Rajmudra as seen at the beginning of this chapter seems to have been the permanent con-stituent of the Dharmasabha, while other members varied accordingto the nature of the case in dispute. 55 Besides disputes of hereditarytitles (Watans) it had jurisdiction over all matters of public im- portance both secular and religious. 56B LocalThe system of trial by Majlis was continued by the founder of the Maratha state, for the local administration of justice and thegovernment officers from the heads of the three divisions and theSarsubhas down to the Havaldars of a Tarf, acted only as inter-mediaries between the litigants and the Gota. 67 They had to conductthe same judicial duties which the old Jagirdars and their appointees(Namajads or Havaldars) carried out during the Sultanate period. 58(I) The Governors of the three divisions and the Sarsubhedars.The three ministers who were the governors of the three maindivisions of the kingdom, were the highest judicial authorities in theterritories under their jurisdiction and had original as well as ap- pellate powers. 59 It is uncertain, whether they derived these powers by virtue of the Mutalqi seal of the Raja, which they were permitted touse. The Sarsubhedars assisted them in their judicial work. 60(II) The Subha or Paragana Majlis of the Diwan and the Gota(1) The Diwan or Raj Mudra* 1 Of the different officers whoformed the Diwan or Subha, (i) the Subhedar and (ii) the Sabhasadare notable from judicial point of view.(i) The Subhedar He had jurisdiction over original andappelate suits. He was to watch the proceedings of the Subha Majlisii) The Sabhasad (councillor) It seems the Majalasi of the Muslim period was replaced by Sabhasad under Swaraj. 62 Theoffice is noticed from the central Rajmandal down to the Diwan of the Subha. 63 During the reign of Rajaram, Shankaraji Baji servedunder Sachiv as a Sabhasad of Rajmandal, and his annualsalary was 2000 Rons. 04 The famous Peshwa Balaji Vishvanath wasa Sabhasad of Subha Dabhol in 1697. 65 Krishnaji Anant, the well-known biographer of Shivaji, was the Sabhasad of Rajmandal under Rajaram. 6 * It seems therefore that the office was generally conferred
 
on an experienced person. He was probably the chief law-authorityon behalf of the government in a Majlis held to try suits.The office of the Qazi, as already seen in the last chapter,lost its importance under swaraj and he came to be looked uponas a member of the local Gota and the religious head of the Muslimcommunity. 68 But his seal on the documents of local transaction wasregarded as necessary for their legal validity even under swaraj. 69(2) The Subha Gota It was just the same as the ParaganaGota under the Sultanate period.Such was the composition of the Subha or Paragana Majlisheld to decide suits during the period under review. It had jurisdic-tion over all sorts of civil cases and continued its work just in thesame way as during the Muslim period.III) The Thana or Twrf MajlisThe Diwan Thana and the local Gate of the Thana formedthe Thana Majlis. It was the primary judicial authority and carriedits work as under the Sultans of the Deccan. 71(IV) The Village MajlisIt consisted of the Mokadam and the other members of the vil-lage, and had jurisdiction over matters pertaining to the village, (seechapter Documents and narratives would ultimately be tested in an assembly of regional or village notables (majlis, gotsabha, samasta dehijan). Literally thousands of suchgatherings are mentioned in the records of medieval western India. It is important, Ithink, to note that people of diverse communities and persuasions would be present.Contestants could not, therefore, appeal to esoteric or sectarian knowledge, but turnedrather to the "common knowledge" or "common sense" of a diverse local community,narrated in a language that everyone could understand. I have already mentioned the localassembly that met in 1610 to resolve the boundary dispute between two villages of Punedistrict. It was headed by the hereditary Islamic judge Kazi Abdulla and his deputy, KaziIsmail. Also present were Mir Isiph, deputy commandant of the fort of Kondana, Nur Miya Vali, custodian of an important Sufi shrine. But the gathering also included twoBrahman officials, the heads of the merchants of three market towns, and a long list of village headmen and notables from the nearby villages.55 Thus Islamic scholars andofficials, Brahman bureaucrats, merchants, local gentry, and substantial peasants were all present. All these would have to be convinced, and would then authenticate the awardwith their seals, signatures, or marks. Most proceedings were held in the open or in public places. People of many classes would thus periodically gather to hear, debate, and renewlocal knowledge and common sense. Some of them might have to stand forth aswitnesses, plaintiffs, or respondents. In a largely nonliterate society, such meetings would

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