Selected Documents on Eighteenth Century Anglo-Indian Legal History

Constitutional documents:

These documents have been drawn from the excellent collection published in 19th-century Madras: 

J. Shaw, Charters relating to the East India Company from 1600-1761, (Madras: Madras government press, 1887).    

The East India Company Charter of 1600    

The East India Company Charter of 1661 
  • This new charter, issued by Charles II on his restoration, included provisions for the EIC to hold universal territorial jurisdiction in its Indian settlements. It called for the governor and council of each EIC factory and settlement to have complete judicial authority over all EIC personnel, and more importantly, over all persons living in their territory regardless of origin,  i.e.. “...power to judge all persons belonging to the said governor and company or that shall live under them," and that the Laws of England would have to be applied  " all causes, whether civil or criminal” (p.44).  
Charter establishing the Corporation of Madras and the first Mayor's Court (1687) 
  • This charter, issued by the Company itself, not the Crown, established a town corporation at Madras with Aldermen and Burgesses drawn from every community in the city.  [UMichigan]
The charter of 1726 establishing the first Royal courts in India  
  • This Crown charter replaced the Mayor's Court in Madras and the ad hoc courts in Bombay and Calcutta with a new set of English legal institutions.
The charter of 1753 revising that of 1726 and restricting access to the Royal Courts.  
  • The revised charter of 1753 largely maintained the 1726 system of English courts but added a court of requests for petty disputes and, most importantly, prevented suits between "natives of India" from being heard in the Mayor's Court.
Lord North's Regulating Act of 1773: "An Act for establishing certain Regulations for the better Management of the Affairs of the East India Company, as well in India as in Europe."  (13 George III c.63)
  • This contentious 1773 legislation marked a turning point in the relationship between metropolitan legal authorities and the EIC's Indian possessions. It laid out a plan for the rule of the Company's newly acquired territories in Bengal and established an independent royal court at Calcutta modeled after the King's Bench in London.
The Letters Patent of the new Supreme Court of Judicature at Calcutta (1774)  
  • This is the founding charter of the first Anglo-Indian court to feature professional common law judges. It was established by order of Parliament in the Regulating Act of 1773. 
 Selected Cases:(extracted from legal reporters and other sources) 

Other Primary Sources