Share This Post With Friens

 Administrative Reforms of Lord Cornwallis

        Lord Cornwallis was sent as Governor-General in India under the Pitt’s India Act to establish peace and reorganize the system of governance. He was a man of high ancestry of aristocratic nature. He had to establish a satisfactory land system in India, and reorganize the governance system along with an honest and efficient judicial system. ‘Administrative Reforms of Lord Cornwallis- Lord Cornwallis And His Administrative Reforms in Hindi’ Today in this blog we will know in detail about the reforms of Lord Cornwallis.


lord cornwallis

Lord Cornwallis’s Judicial Reforms – Father of Judicial Services in India


       Lord Cornwallis did the first thing that all the power of the district was handed over to the collector.

      The collectors in-charge posted in the district were also appointed civil judges of civil courts from 1787. Apart from this, he was also given criminal powers and the power to do criminal justice in limited cases.

     In 1790 and 1792, while changing the criminal courts, the district criminal courts with Indian judges were abolished and in their place 4 traveling courts were formed. 3 for Bengal and one for Bihar. The European President used to work in these courts with the help of Qazi and Mufti. These courts toured the districts and decided criminal cases directed by the city magistrates.

         Similarly, in place of the Sadar Nizamat court of Murshidabad, a similar court was established in Calcutta. This Court consisted of the Governor-General and the members of his Council. And who was assisted by the Chief Qazi and the Chief Mufti.

 When was the Cornwallis Code (Code) made – 1793

         Lord Cornwallis finalized the judicial reforms made by him by 1793 and presented it in the form of Cornwallis Code.





     This reform principle of Lord Cornwallis was based on “SEPARATION OF POWER”. He separated the tax and justice administrations. Before this, the collectors in the district had the land tax department, and extensive judicial and penal powers. Cornwallis felt that how can one himself, as a judge, decide the injustice done as a collector? The landlord and the farmer will not believe in this justice. Thus by the Cornwallis Code the judicial and criminal powers of the Collector were taken away and he was left with only tax related powers.

        For the work in the District Civil Courts, a new category of officers was constituted of District Judges. They were also given the functions of criminal and police.

  • A successive series of civil courts were established.
  • The distinction between tax and civil cases was abolished and these courts were given the right to hear all civil cases.
  • The Munsif’s court could hear cases up to Rs 50 and was headed by an Indian officer.
  • Above the civil court was the registrar’s court, which heard cases up to Rs 200 and had a European judge.
  • Appeals from both the above courts could lie in the city or district courts.
  • The District Judge could hear all civil cases. In this he was assisted by Indian jurists.
  • Above the district courts were four provincial courts. Where appeals were made to the district courts. These provincial courts were located at Calcutta, Dhaka, Murshidabad and Patna.
  • These provincial courts could hear cases up to 1000 rupees and their judge was only European.
  • Above this, the appeal was to the Sadar Diwani Adalat, which was headed by the Governor-General and his council. He used to hear cases of more than 1000.
  • Cases above 5000 rupees were presented to the emperor in the council.
  • The procedure of purchase of these courts was fixed and there were Indian officers in it, their qualifications were also determined and Hindu law was applicable to Hindus and Muslim law to Muslims.
  • Europeans living in the districts belonging to these courts were also subjected to these courts.
  • Europeans living outside Calcutta could live there only if they accepted the submission of these courts.
  • All government officials were made answerable to these courts.
  • Cornwallis introduced the rule of Sovereignty of Law, which was not there before, in India.

     Many changes were also made in the criminal justice system. District Fauzdari Courts functioning under Indian officers were abolished. The District Judge was empowered to order the arrest of criminals or those who broke the order. He used to decide the small matters himself. He used to present more serious cases before the visiting courts. Therefore, the visiting courts, which also heard civil cases, functioned as the criminal traveling courts. Death penalty was allowed to them, but its confirmation was required by the Sadar Nizamat Adalat which acted as the Supreme Court in criminal cases. The Governor-General had the power to grant pardon or to reduce the punishment.






Criminal Law Reform

     Cornwallis’ predecessor, Warren Hastings, emphasized only the right of the government to intervene in legal matters, but Cornwallis also said that the government had the right to reform criminal law. On this the Muslims had to say that criminal laws are divine.

   Cornwallis made some changes in the criminal law between 1790-93, which were approved by the British Parliament by an act in 1797. according to this —

In December 1790, a rule was made for the guidance of Muslim judicial officers according to which in murder cases more emphasis was laid on the spirit of the killer and not on the weapon or method of murder.

  • Apart from this, pardoning or fixing the ‘value of blood’ was stopped at the will of the relatives of the deceased.
  • In the seriousness of which case, instead of amputation of limbs, hard labor was ordered.
  • It was also decided in 1793 that the “special religion” of the witness would have no effect on the case.
  • According to Muslim law, people of other religions could not testify in case of killing of Muslims.

    Cornwallis’s review of judicial reforms

      The judicial reforms carried out by Cornwallis were based on the judicial concepts and impartiality of the West. A secular law replaced the personal law or religious law of the king or his servants. The uniqueness of the law was established. But the immediate results of the Cornwallis Code were not very encouraging. This new law was so new, new and unfamiliar in the Indian context that the common man could not take advantage of it.

         This new justice was expensive and slow-moving that a rich person could easily defeat an uneducated and poor person. False witnesses were prepared. Lies and dishonesty prevailed. Litigation increased. The ever-increasing number of cases in the courts increased the work and the decisions started getting delayed. But the main thing was that the traditional judicial system, Panchayat, Zamindar, Qazi, Faujdar and Nazim etc. were replaced by European judges who were completely ignorant of Indian customs and traditions. In 1817, Monroe also ridiculed the ignorance of these European judges.

   Cornwallis’s Police Reforms

    Cornwallis turned his attention to police reform after implementing judicial reforms. He made important reforms in the police department which were as follows —-

Cornwallis increased their salaries and allowances to stop the increasing corruption in the police.

He also announced a reward for the arrest of thieves and killers.

In rural areas, the police powers of the zamindars were abolished and they were no longer responsible for dacoity and murder in their area. The British Dandanayaks were entrusted with the responsibility of the district police.

The districts were divided into areas of 400 square miles and each area had a inspector and police personnel appointed to assist him.
Cornwallis’ tax reforms

        Cornwallis, reforming the tax system, 

       divided the province into revenue areas in 1787, on which a collector was appointed. Their number was reduced from 36 to 23.

      The name of the old Revenue Committee was changed to Board of Revenue. Its function was to supervise the work of the collectors.

     The annual contract system continued till 1790. In 1790 Cornwallis, with the permission of the Court of Directors, accepted the landlords as the owners of the land. But the condition was that they should accept to pay the annual tax to the company.

     The contract amount was reduced by 1/11th. Initially this arrangement was for ten years but in 1793 it was made permanent.

Cornwallis’ trade and commerce reforms

     Corruption was rampant in the trade department, which Cornwallis noticed. Often the company’s goods were sold at a loss, while the goods sent to the account by the workers of the company made a profit.

     After the Board of Trade was established in 1774, the company used to buy its goods through European and Indian contractors. These people often gave substandard goods to the company at high prices. Instead of checking these irregularities, the members of the trade board used to take bribe and commission from them.

     Cornwallis reduced the number of members from 11 to 5 and made arrangements for taking goods in place of contractors by Gumashtas and business representatives. These people used to give advance money to the manufacturers of goods and fixed the price due to which the company started getting the goods cheaper. This strengthened the financial position of the company. This arrangement continued till the last days of the company.

 Eliminating bribes, corruption and the vices of private trade

    Cornwallis was over greed for money, which brought Clive and Warren Hastings infamous. He completely banned the taking of bribes and gifts of officials and private trade. According to Cornwallis, due to low wages of employees, they engage in corruption and private business, so he increased the salaries of officers and employees. The collector was given a monthly commission of Rs 1500 as well as 1 percent commission on the collected tax.

   Europeanization of the Administrative System

    Cornwallis was also motivated by discrimination of caste superiority and viewed Indians as inferior ( though the upper castes of India were ( still is ) inspired by the same sentiment , but the British may have given them a lesson ) . Every Indian was corrupt in the eyes of Cornwallis. He appointed only Europeans to each high post. The gates of allied services were closed to Indians. The posts of Jamadar and Subedar in the army, Munsif, Sadar Amin or Deputy Collector in the administrative service were also not available to him. According to Sir John Shore, the policy of the British was that the British should be benefited and Indians should be given only those posts for which the British were not available.

        In this way Cornwallis completed the work of Warren Hastings and through a reform process in India, the work of increasing administrative efficiency. Although he was not as talented as Warren Hastings and Wellesley. But he succeeded in administrative reforms with the help of assistants such as Sir John Shore, James Grant and George Barlow. Cornwallis will always be remembered for his work on police and judicial reform.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *