India’s first Supreme Court, Fort William, Calcutta

  • The regulating act of 1773 established a supreme court at Fort William, Calcutta. This Supreme Court consisted one Chief Justice and three other regular judges or Puisne Judges.
  • Sir Elijah Imphey was the first Chief Justice of this Supreme Court.
  • The Supreme Court was the supreme judiciary over all British subjects including the provinces of Bengal, Bihar and Orissa.
  • This was the starting point of Modern Constitutional History of India, under the British.

    Please note that this was though a Supreme Court, but still it was not above the Company. The act of 1773 was obscure with regard to the relation of the Supreme Court with the Government of Bengal. The Supreme Court subjected the company to the control of British Government. Later an amendment in this act was made (The amending act of 1881), in which the actions of the public servants in the company in their official capacity were exempted from the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court was also made to consider and respect the religious and social customs of the Indians.

  • Appeals could be taken from the provincial courts to the Governor-General-in-Council and that was the final court of appeal.
  • The rules and regulations made by the Governor General-in-Council were not to be registered with the Supreme Court.

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