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What are the main features of the new Judicial System introduced by Warren Hastings in India?

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  • Last Updated : 09 Sep, 2022
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Warren Hastings was a colonial administrator, who came to India as an employee of the East India Company. During the period 1772 to 1785, he worked as the Governor of Bengal and made many significant changes in the administration as well as introduced a completely new and structured model of the judicial system.

When Hastings arrived in India in 1772, he discovered that the East India Company’s situation was far from ideal. Bengal’s dual government was a complete failure. Despite the fact that the company had enjoyed Diwani authority over wealthy provinces such as Bengal, Bihar, and Orissa for a long time, the company was on the verge of bankruptcy. Officials were corrupt, and the administration as a whole was a failure. In order to make changes in such conditions, in the year 1772, Warren hastings introduced a system of revenue administration, along with the new judicial system plan, which eventually laid the founding stone for the Adalat system in India.

Features of the new Judicial System

Here are some main features of the judicial system introduced by Warren hastings. 

  • He divided the provinces of Bengal, Bihar, and Orissa into multiple districts, and appointed a collector for each district, whose work was to collect revenue and had judicial authority over it. 
  • He separated the court into different divisions and subdivisions, according to their serving purposes, such as:
    • Small courts: small courts were established in every village or Pargana. Its work was to handle small and regular matters of the villagers. the limited dispute was up to Rs.10. The village headman or chief farmer presided over such cases.
    • District courts: District courts were divided into two parts, Diwani Adalat and Faujdari Adalats. 
      • Diwani Adalats presided over the matters of revenue collection as well as civil cases such as disagreements over marriages, inheritance, debts, caste issues, contracts, disputed accounts, personal property, partnership, etc. the penal jurisdiction limit was up to Rs. 500. The district collectors serves as judges, assisted by Pundits and Kazis. 
      • Whereas, Faujdari Adalats deals with criminal cases. The Muslim law enforcers preside over their courts. The Kazi and Mufti renders the fatwas, while Maulvi was there to explain the laws. The collector acts as the supervisor.  
  • Provincial Courts: Provincial courts were considered the highest courts and were situated in the presidential town of Calcutta.  It was also two in the count, namely Sadar Diwani Adalat and Sadar Nizamat Adalat. Both act according to their areas of power.
    • Sadar Diwani Adalat was the highest court and take over the matters of civil cases. It used to hold appellate as well as initial jurisdiction. It handles cases involving disputes worth more than Rs. 500, as well as hearing appeals from Diwani Adalat. It was situated in the presidential town of Calcutta and was governed by the governor and his council.
    • Sadar Nizamat Adalat presides over the cases of criminal offenses. It also has the same authority as the Sadar Diwani Adalat as well as the authority to rule on issues involving the death penalties and property confiscations. The head of the Adalat was Nawab, who has the authority to sign the death warrants related to the death penalty.
  • Along with such, there were some other arrangements, like creating transparency. All the cases were required to be heard in open courts so that the general public can take part in the hearing. Which made the judiciary transparent and people continued to have faith in the judicial system. 
  • In addition to that, the Lower and district-level courts were asked to keep records of the cases they heard, in the form of a register and determined so that the same may be transmitted to the Sadar Adalat. 
  • In order to maintain their impartiality, judges were paid fixed salaries and were not permitted to accept gifts.
  • New civil and criminal procedures and laws were also introduced in the system, according to which, a set procedure was decided to proceed with the criminal cases, that needed to be followed before giving judgment. Also, a new limitation term was added, according to which, 12 years from the date of the dispute, would have been deemed time-barred. such a provision can still be seen in the procedural codes.
  • Despite some shortcomings, Hastings’ judicial reforms were undeniably beneficial to the people of the time and may still be observed in various sections of the Indian court.

Frequently Asked Questions

Question 1: How many courts were established by Warren Hastings to resolve disputes?


Warren Hastings established two courts to handle disagreements. District Diwani Adalat was set up in districts to handle civil disputes that fell under the collector’s jurisdiction. While the District Fauzdari Adalats was established to deal with criminal matters that were assigned to Indian officials with assistance from Qazi and Muftis.

Question 2: How did Warren Hastings change the Judicial Plan of 1774?


Warren Hastings was aware that the judicial system of 1774 needed improvement, so when he had a second chance, he altered the plan. An entirely new scheme was unveiled on April 11th, 1780. According to the 1780 model, the executive and judicial branches were separated.

Question 3: What kind of reforms did Warren Hastings make?


When Warren Hastings came to India, the condition of the company’s administration was not very good. The officials were corrupt and the company was on the verge of bankruptcy. he was aware of the flaws in the company’s system of administration and wished to make changes to it. so, in 1772, in order to reform the system, he introduced an administrational plan. He made significant changes in the area of administration, judiciary, commerce, and revenue.

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