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Charters of the East India Company: 1600, 1661, 1726, and 1753
Charter: A written grant by a country's legislative or sovereign power, by which an
institution such as a company, university, or city is created or its rights and
privileges defined.
On the Friday 31st December 1600, Queen Elizabeth I granted a Royal Charter
allowing a group of British merchants to form the East India Company and gave
them a 15 year monopoly to trade with countries in South and South East Asia.

Charter of 1600: -FoundationThe Indian laws and courts are closely modeled on the English pattern. The history
of their introduction and development begins with the foundation of the East India
Company under Crowns Charter of 1600. It conferred corporate charter and juristic
personality on the Company and gave it an exclusive privilege of trade with the East
Indies. The Company might, however, grant trading licences to other parties.
Unauthorized traders were liable to be punished by forfeiture of their goods and
ships and imprisonment.
The management of the company was vested in a Governor and twenty-four
committees, who were individuals and predecessors of the later directors, elected
annually by the Company. Its affairs were managed on democratic principles.
The Company was empowered to make laws and ordinances for its good
government, and that of its officers, and for the better advancement of trade and
In order to secure due observance of these laws and ordinances, it was
further empowered to punish their violations by imprisonments of body or by fines
or by imposing pains. The laws and punishments were to be reasonable and not
contrary to the laws, statutes or customs of England.

The Charter of 1661: During the year 1661 Charles II issued a new charter
which increased the authority of the Company and that it was allowed to keep
away and exercise power and command over its fortresses in India. The Governor
and his Council were given general judicial authority to judge all persons belonging
to the said Governor and Company or that shall live under them in all cases,
whether civil or criminal according to the laws of this kingdom and to execute
judgment accordingly.

The Charter of 1726: Charter of 1726 is also known as judicial charter as this is
the beginning of development of Indian law system and judiciary. The year 1726
marked the beginning of an important era in the evolution of laws and courts of
India. A Charter of the Crown of that year, established Corporations, and thus the
Mayors courts, and the Courts of the Oyer and Terminer (a partial translation of the

Anglo-French oyer et terminer which literally means "to hear and determine"), and
constituted subordinate legislative authorities in the Presidency Town of Madras,
Bombay and Calcutta, though then the Crown had no sovereign rights on any part of
India except the Island of Bombay. The importance of this charter is that this charter
introduced Uniformity of justice system in all 3-presidency towns. The charter
established civil and criminal courts in each presidency towns. The 2nd important
point is that before 1726 the courts got authority from the company but after this
charter the courts got their authority from the royal British king , The courts enjoyed
same status just like the courts which were present that time in England. With the
charter of 1726, the appeals from courts in India went to the Privy Council in
England. With this charter in each presidency town local legislature was established.
Following are the few provisions of charter of 1726
1. In each presidency Town establishment of corporation consisting of Mayor and
nine Aldermen.
2. Every year new mayor was chosen from the Aldermen
3. An aldermen hold office for life
4. Establishment of Mayors Court
5. The mayor and two council members gave justice and appeal went to the
Governor within 14 days. Further appeal could be made to the king in council if
matter involved more than 1000 pagodas This way first time Indians got right to file
appeal in the king in council.
6. A sheriff was appointed for each ten miles of area by the Governor and council
annually, in simple terms he was the police officer.
7. When complained was given to the court, the court issued the summons in
writing to the Sheriff and he brought the accused in the court, he handed the
summons to the concern party.
8. If party accused did not come on that day, the warrant was issued and Sheriff
brought them before the courts, bail was granted sometimes.
9. For criminal jurisdiction, justice of peace was established same like England
10. Criminal jurisdiction system followed all the British criminal system and
11. Charter of 1726 empowered the governor and his council to make by laws, rules
and ordinances for the regulation of corporation.
12. In Madras charter became effective from the 17th August 1727

13. In Bombay 10th February 1728
14. In Calcutta December 1727 the implementation of charter started.
15. The company directed the courts to maintain records and send them to England
to know how they are working.
16. With these establishments common Indians also start to file the more and more
cases in the courts.
17. Mayors Court, Governor, and Council always got disputes regarding jurisdiction
in presidency towns. This fights resulted into the weakening of Judiciary in the future
and executive became powerful.
18. Company adopted policy not to get involved in the Indian customs and disputes
but if the matter went to the Mayors Court they adopted English procedures.

The Charter of 1753:

The Crowns Charter of 1753 amended suitably the

former Charter of 1726. In Morleys Digest a reference to Rankin has been made
saying that it expressly excepted from the jurisdiction of the Mayors Courts all suits
and actions between the Indians only; henceforth they were to be determined
among themselves unless both parties submitted them to the judgment of the
Mayors Courts. This provision is said by Morley to be the first reservation of their
own laws and customs to natives.
The Charter made the Mayors Courts subservient to the Governors in Council
by giving the latter the power to choose Mayors and Aldermen. Each Corporation
had to elect annually from the Aldermen two persons and present their names to
the Governor in Council in whom was vested the final choice of Mayor. According to
Love the vacancies among Aldermen were to be filled from the inhabitants of the
town by the Governor in Council and this affected the autonomy of the Mayors

Settlements: Surat, Madras,Bombay and Calcutta.

Settlement at Surat: Equipped with small powers and privileges, the Company
started its trading career in India. Surat, then a famous sea-port on her western
coast, emerged as the first English settlement in 1612 under the imperial
permission. Gradually other settlements followed. Surat factory with a President and
council, appointed by the Company in 1618 became its principal trading station
having authority over factories.
Justice at Surat: The Company was already clothed by the Crown with the power
to administer justice and constitute judicial authorities in the areas covered by the
factories in India. The Indian Emperor had also given liberty to the English to govern
themselves according to their own laws. Consequently, the President and members
of his council at Surat, who were the Companys executive officers in India, were

constituted a judicial authority. They administered justice to Englishmen both in civil
and criminal cases. Cases of capital offences were to be submitted to the verdict of
a jury. Being laymen, the decided cases according to their own ideas of justice and
fair play, though English laws was supposed to be applied. At this stage the
executive was the exclusive judicial authority.
The native judiciary suffered from many drawbacks; it was unpopular and corrupt.
The English often exploited this situation to their own advantage. Instead of being
tried by the local tribunals in cases where natives also formed parties, they took law
into their own hands to extract justice from the natives by themselves.
Surat disappeared from the scene of the British trade in 1687 when the
headquarters of the President and Council were shifted to Bombay.

Settlement at Madras: Madras is the first and one of the three Presidency
towns. Its settlement arose out of a grant made by the local Raja in 1639 who
empowered the Company to erect a fortified factory on a strip of land, to mint
money and to govern the village of Madras-patanam, on condition that half the
custom and revenues of the port should be paid to the Raja. The new station was
named Fort St. George and an Agent and Council took over its charge in 1641 under
the control of Surat Presidency. It acquired the English and Europeans, was later
designated as white town and the village area of Madraspatnam inhabited by the
natives, as black town. The whole establishment ultimately developed into the
modern city of Madras.
Madras constituted the first territorial acquisition by the English but, for a long time,
it was not regarded as an absolute gift conferring sovereign rights on the Company
but a fief held under the suzerainty of the native rules. It appears that in 1752 the
English tenure of Madras and the limited area around it became absolute, though
the company did not expressly assert its sovereignty.

Settlement at Bombay:

Before the Companys settlement the Island of

Bombay was ceded in full sovereignty to the Crown in 1661 by the Portuguese King
under marriage treaty of that year. By then Portuguese laws and customs were
firmly established. The English took over administration of the Island in 1665, but
they did not generally interfere with the existing civil and judicial arrangements
though not satisfactory, till 1670 but when in 1668 the Crown transferred the Island
by Charter of 1668 to the Company at a quit-rent of 10 pound per annum company
empowered to make laws and ordinances for the good government of the Island and
its inhabitants. The company was given authority of government and command in
the Island with power to repel any unwanted force. It was also empowered to take
into its service willing officers and soldiers of the crown, thus forming the nucleus
of the Island was given military powers to be exercised in cases of mutiny or
sedition. Later on the Company was authorized to coin money at Bombay. To start

with, the Island was put under the control of the Surat Council. In 1669, a Deputy
Governor and Council were appointed in Bombay under the same authority. This
position continued till 1687 when the headquarters of the Governor in Council were
shifted from Surat to Bombay.

Settlement at Calcutta: Calcutta was found in 1690 when the English first
settled themselves at Sutanati on the banks of Hughly and erected a fortified
factory. The Fort was named as Fort William. In 1698 the company purchased the
zamindari of three villages, Sutanati, Govindpur, and Calcutta, which ultimately
developed into the modern city of Calcutta. In 1699, Calcutta was declared a
Presidency with the Governor, also called President and Council to manage its
affaires. The Governor in Council could exercise judicial powers under the Charter of
The acquisition of the zamindari of the gave the Company for the first time a legal
position within the Mughal Empire. It brought into existence a working theory, in
the development of which the acceptance of the Diwani in 1765 is the final logical
The acquisition of the zamindari raised the status of the Company to that of
Zamindar who in those days collected revenue and administered justice to the
people of his zamindari. Thus the Company acquired judicial power over the native
inhabitants from the Indian suzerain. However, unlike Bombay it had no sovereign
rights in Bengal at this stage.