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ADMINISTRATION OF JUSTICE -HISTORICAL BACKGROUND

 

 

                                    The history of modern judicial administration in the District begins with the advent of the British. In Fort Cochin an auxiliary Zilla Court was set up in 1812 and a District Munsiff's Court was established in 1816. The former was abolished in 1845 and its place was taken by the principal Sudr Amin's Court. In 1875 the designation of the principal Sudr Amin was changed into Subordinate Judge. In the Cochin area the establishment of courts presided over by regularly paid judges was one of the reforms introduced by Col.Munro. By the Hukm-nama of April 1813 a Cheria or Subordinate Court was established at Tripunithura and a Valia or Huzur Court at Ernakulam. The subordinate Court was presided over by a Hindu and a Christian judge and a Sastri and the Huzur Court by the Dewan, a Hindu and a Christian Judge and a Sastri. All disputes were to be settled according to the provisions of the Dharma Sastras and the custom of the land. In 1818 during the Dewanship of Nanjappayya a Proclamation was issued by which the Huzur Court was converted into an Appeal Court and the Subordinate Court at Tripunithura was removed to Ernakulam and designated the Zilla Court of Anchikaimal. The Zilla Court was empowered to enquire into and dispose of all cases subject to confirmation by the Appeal Court and appeals lay from their decision to the Appeal Court. By Regulation I of 1036 which was passed in June 1861 a Munsiff's Court was set up at Ernakulam for the trial of cases not exceeding Rs.100 in value. This was done to provide some relief to the Zilla court where the volume of work had increased considerably.

 

                              In 1877 a separate Munsiff's Court was established for the Cochin Taluk. This was, however, abolished in 1883, but was revived seven years later. The constitution of courts in Cochin underwent an important change in 1882. In that year four classes of courts were constituted by Regulation I of 1057 (1881-82), Viz, the Munsiff's Court , the Zilla Court, the Appeal Court and His Highness the Raja's Court of Appeal. Regulation X of 1076 (1900-01) constituted a Chief Court and put an end to the Raja's Court of Appeal while Regulation III of the same year changed the designation of the Zilla Court into District Court. Village Panchayath Courts were set up by Regulation V of 1089 (1913-14) and empowered to entertain certain classes of suits not exceeding Rs.30 in value. In 1938 the Chief Court of Cochin was converted into a High Court. In the Tranvancore area the scheme of judicial reform devised in 987 M.E. (1811-12) during the reign of Rani Gouri Lakshmi Bai provided for the establishment of a Subordinate Court at Alwaye for the Alangad Mukhom. This Court which was subsequently named the Zilla Court was stationed at Parur. It was in 1831 that Munsiff's Courts were first set up in Travancore and Alwaye, Parur, Perumbavur, Muvattupuzha and Thodupuzha in this District which gradually became seats of Munsiff's Courts. A Village Panchayath Court was set up at Parur in 1917.

 

                         Before the creation of various courts the King was the Supreme head of the State. He enjoyed legislative, executive and judicial powers. Moreover, he was the highest court of appeal in the State. Although the King was the supreme head, in administration, he was assisted by his ministers and deputies.

 

COURTS OF JUSTICE

 

                  Establishment of courts presided over by regularly paid judges was one of the first reforms of Colonel Morrison. He introduced this reform as such for the better administration of justice as for putting a stop to the abuse of their multifarious powers enjoyed by the Karyakars. These functionaries were not only revenue officers, but also judges, magistrates, police officers and to a limited extent, military governors of their respective districts.

 

                      The measures necessary to remedy this evil were introduced by the Hukm-namas issued in May 1812 and April 1813.

 

                         By the Hukm-nama of April 1813, two cheriya or subordinate courts were established, one at Tripunithura and the other at Trichur, and a valia or Huzur Court at Ernakulam. Each of th subordinate courts was to be presided over by a Hindu and a Christian judge and a Sastri, and the Huzur Court by the Diwan, a Hindu and a Christian judge and a Sastri. All disputes were to be settled according to the provisions of the Dharma Sastras and the custom of the land. If both the parties belonged to the same religion or nationality, the case was to be disposed of according to the law applicable to that nationality, and if they belonged to different nationalities, the law applicable to the nationality of the defendant and the Dharma Sastras should govern the case. Complaints against public servants in discharge of their duties should, after the examination of the complainants and witnesses without any intimation being given to the servants concerned, be forwarded with the records of enquiry to the Huzur Court to be submitted to the Diwan for disposal. All other matters were to be enquired into in public by subordinate courts, appeals against their decisions lying to the Huzur Court.

 

                     A Hukm-nama issued two years later defined the respective jurisdictions of the courts. Suits exceeding 8,000 funams (Rs.857) in value and all suits against the White Jews were made directly cognizable by the Huzur Court. While all other suits were to be disposed of in the first instance by the subordinate courts, appeals lying to the former from their decisions.

 

                 Soon after Nanjappayya was appointed as Diwan, he issued a proclamation in January 1818, by which the Huzur Court was converted into the Appeal Court and the subordinate courts into the Zilla courts of Trichur and Anjikaimal, that at Tripunithura being removed to Ernakulam. The Zillah courts were empowered to enquire into and dispose of all cases, subject to confirmation by the Appeal court, and appeals lay from their decisions to the Appeal Court.

 

                    The first Regulation that was enacted in Cochin was Regulation I of 1010 M.E.(1835), which was passed for extending the jurisdiction of the courts, but it left the constitution of the civil courts unaffected. For the convenience of the inhabitants of the isolated Taluk of Chittur, the Tahsildar of that Taluk was, in 1852, invested with the powers of a Munsiff and authorised to dispose of suits not exceeding Rs.100 in value.

 

                     Regulation I of 1036 which was passed in June 1861, provided for the establishment of Munsiff's courts at Ernakulam and Chittur for the trial of cases not exceeding Rs.100 in value and also for the disposal of such cases by a single judge of the Zilla courts sitting as a judge of small causes. Two years later, two more Munsiff's courts were established, one exercising jurisdiction over the Taluks of Mukundapuram and Cranganur and the other over those of Trichur and Talapilli, and the Zilla courts then ceased to exercise the powers of a court of small causes. In 1868, a separate Munsiff's court was established for the Trichur Taluk, and one was similarly established for the Cochin Taluk in 1877. The later court however, was abolished in 1883, but was revived seven years later.

 

                        Regulation I of 1042, which was passed at the end of 1866 for extending the powers vested in the Munsiff's and for defining their jurisdiction, empowered them to try suits not exceeding Rs.200 in value, and made their decisions final in suits the amount or value involved in which did not exceed Rs.10. The decisions in appeal by the Zilla courts in cases in which the amount or value did not exceed Rs.50 were also made final. The constitution of the courts underwent a still more important change in 1882. In that year, four classes of courts were constituted by Regulation I of 1057, the Munsiff's courts the Zilla courts, the Appeal Court and His Highness the Raja's Court of Appeal. The ordinary jurisdiction of the Munsiff was raised to Rs.500 and their small cause jurisdiction to Rs.25 and the appellate decisions of the Zilla courts in cases of a small cause nature not exceeding Rs.100 in value were made final Appeals against the decisions of the Zilla Judges in suits below Rs.1000 in value in the case of immovable property and be low Rs.3,000 in the case of movable property were to be heard and disposed of by a bench of two judges of the Appeal Court, and suits of higher value by a single judge. Against the decision of a single judge, an appeal lay to the Raja's Court of Appeal, which was generally to be heard by the other two judges of the Appeal Court, the Diwan having in case in which the Sirkar was not a party, the power to direct the appeal to be heard by the two judges in association with himself. The decisions of the Raja's Court of Appeal were to be submitted through the Diwan to His Highness for confirmation, and they could be pronounced only after they were so confirmed.

 

                         The excellent arrangement continued in force for eighteen years , when another change was made in the constitution of the courts by Regulations II and III of 1076. The former constituted the present Chief Court and put an end to the Raja's Court of Appeal, and by the latter the designation of the Zilla Courts was changed into District courts, and the ordinary jurisdiction of the Munsiff was raised from 500 to 1,000 rupees and their small cause jurisdiction to Rs.50. No provision was made for the appellate small cause jurisdiction of the District court but power was taken by Government to bestow on them small cause jurisdiction up to a limit of Rs.200. All appeals against the decisions of the District Judges in original suits were to be heard and disposed of by a full bench of all the three judges in the Chief Court, and appeals from their appellate decisions by a division bench of two judges. A subsequent Regulation, IV of 1079, however, introduced a modification by which two judges of the Chief Court were empowered to hear and finally dispose of cases which under Regulation I of 1057 the judges of the Appeal Court were competent to dispose of finally. The only unsatisfactory feature of these changes is that while under the older Regulation there was provision for second appeals in the majority of cases, the right of second appeal has been limited by the existing Regulations to suits of which, value does not exceed Rs.1,000. When the value of suits exceeds that sum, the first appellate decision by three judges, or even by two judges in certain specific cases or if specially authorised by His Highness the Raja, is final.

 

                       There were no periods of limitation prescribed for suits in limitation in Cochin till Regulation I of 1010 was enacted in 1835. By a Proclamation issued in 1818 a period of twelve years was prescribed for the execution of the decrees of the Company's courts by the courts of Cochin, but it was Regulation I of 1010 that for the first time prescribed a period of twelve years for suits and complaints in respect of movable property. The law did not, however, apply to claims regarding landed property, nor to cases in which “'the plaintiff could prove either that he called upon the defendant for a settlement of his claims or demanded the payment of the sum or sums due by the defendant within the above mentioned period or that the defendant admitted the justice of the demand, or that he (the plaintiff) had directly preferred his claim within the said period to any competent authority” This law was in force till 1868, when Regulation I of 1043, based on the British Indian Act XIV of 1859, was passed. This Regulation was in its turn superseded in 1904 by Regulation II of 1079, an adaptation of Act XV of 1877.

 

The Hukm-nama of May 1816 contained a provision which enabled parties to suits to be represented by their agents or deputies if they were unable to attend in person – a system thereto before unknown.

 

No qualifications were prescribed for vakils till the passing of Regulation I of 1041, after which competitive examinations were held by the Appeal Court in 1868 and 1881 for the selection of vakils. Since then, only persons who had passed these examinations or had qualified themselves for enrollment as vakils in the several British courts were allowed admission to the Cochin bar. Under the authority vested in them by Regulation II of 1076, the Chief Court framed rules in 1902 regarding the qualifications and admission of vakils, according to which the qualifications required for enrollment as vakils in the Chief Court, the District courts and the District Munsiff's courts respectively were made practically the same as those required for enrollment in the corresponding courts in the Madras Presidency.

 

The Huzur and subordinate courts which were established by Colonel Munroe and whose names were subsequently changed into the Appeal and Zilla courts respectively were to administer criminal as well as civil justice. According to the Hukum-nama constituting them, all punishments were to be awarded according to the provisions of the Dharma Sastras, and all matters to be disposed of according to evidence, trials by ordeal being expressly prohibited. There was thus no clear definition of the powers of the courts except that the Zilla courts could take cognizance of all cases, and that their decisions were invariably subject to confirmation by the Appeal Court. All complaints were in the first instance investigated by Tannadars under the direction of Tanna Naiks, and if there was a prima facie case, the accused were committed to the Zilla courts for trial. Capital punishment was awarded in the case of certain grave crimes, such as waging war or attempting to wage war against the State, attempting the life of the sovereign, willful murder, homicide, and serious cases of dakaiti, but the courts were allowed discretion to substitute other forms of punishment even in such cases. Other crimes were punishable with transportation, forfeiture of property, imprisonment and fine, but mutilation as a form of punishment was put a stop to.

 

In 1835 several important changes were introduced in the system of administration of criminal justice. By Regulation IV of 1010, the Tahsildars were made police officers and entrusted with the exercise of the joint functions of Magistrates and Police Inspectors, the Zilla courts were made the criminal courts of the respective Zillas, and the Judges of the Appeal Court were appointed circuit judges for the trial of sessions cases. All complaints were first to be reported to the Tahsildars, who were however competent to deal only with offences punishable with fines up to five rupees. They were to commit all other cases to the Diwan or Diwan Peishkar for trial, who were competent to award imprisonment for six months, six stripes, and fines to the limit of Rs.50. Cases requiring heavier punishment were committed by them to the criminal courts. Appeals against the decisions of the Tahasildars lay to the Diwan Peishkar, while the Diwan as Chief Magistrate had a general control over the entire magistracy. One of the judges of the Appeal Court, assisted by the Sastri of the respective Zilla courts, held quarterly sessions at Ernakulam and half yearly sessions at Trichur for the trial of cases committed by the criminal courts. The latter had the power to award imprisonment for one year twenty stripes and fines to the extent of Rs.100, while the circuit court could award punishments to the extent of imprisonment for three years, 36 stripes and Rs.200 fine. All cases meriting heavier punishments were to be referred by the circuit judge to the Appeal Court which was empowered to pass sentence at its discretion according to the nature of the offence but all sentences of death by hanging, imprisonment exceeding fourteen years, stripes exceeding thirty-six in number had to be submitted to His Highness the Raja for confirmation. The decisions of the criminal courts were subject to appeal to the Appeal Court, while those of the Appeal and circuit courts were final. By Regulation I of 1036 the powers of the circuit judges were raised so that they could award imprisonment for seven years, forty-eight stripes, and fines up to Rs.500, and the cases committed by the Zilla court of Trichur need not necessarily be tried at Trichur, the place of trial being left to be determined by the Appeal Court with the sanction of His Highness the Raja.

 

Regulation I of 1043 (1868) abolished the circuit or sessions courts, and empowered the (Zilla) criminal courts to try and dispose of cases of every description, the sentence being referable to the Appeal Court for approval if they exceeded three years imprisonment, thirty-six stripes or a fine of Rs.200. In regard to the power of the Appeal Court, sentences subject to confirmation by His Highness the Raja were limited to those of death and imprisonment for life. The Regulation also provided that “ in awarding punishment in the exercise of their criminal jurisdiction the Appeal Court and the Zilla Courts shall be guided by the penalty prescribed in the Indian Penal Code”. This arrangement continued in force till 1884, when this branch of judicial administration was completely reorganized by the enactment of the Police Regulation, the Cochin Penal Code and the Cochin Criminal Procedure Code, which were adapted from the corresponding British Indian Acts. A Police force was organised on modern lines, the Tahasildars were divested of their police function, and the Diwan of his magisterial duties. The Tahsildars were appointed subordinate Magistrates under the new code, the two Peishkars were appointed District Magistrates with original and appellate jurisdictions, and the Zilla (now District) Judges were appointed Sessions Judges for the trial of cases committed to them by the Magistrates and for disposing of appeals from the decisions of District Magistrates. Appellate authority over the sessions courts and the powers of reference and revision were vested in the Appeal (now Chief) Court. No provision was however made for trial by jury or with assessors and for summary trials. Besides the seven Tahsildar-Magistrates, the Police Amin of Nemmaram, whose office was created in 1865 in the interests of the planters on the Nelliampatis, was made a subordinate Magistrate , and to give relief to the Tahasildar-Magistrates of Mukundapuram and Talapilli, Sub-Magistrates courts were established at Adoor and Kunnamkulam in 1890. In 1902, a special second class Magistrate was appointed for the Kanayannoor Taluk, the Tahasildar being relieved of all magisterial work.

 

In September 1907, the Peishkars and all the Tahasildars were completely divested of their magisterial functions, and the Magistrates courts at Adoor, Kunnamkulam and Nemmara were abolished. A full-time District Magistrate was appointed for the whole State with six full-time subordinate Magistrates under him with second class powers, two for the Cochin-Kanayannur Taluk and one each for the remaining four Taluks. The District Registrar of Cranganur was invested with the powers of a third class Magistrate for trying offences arising within that Taluk, but this arrangement was subsequently cancelled, and a full-time Magistrate was appointed for that Taluk as well in June 1909. This complete separation of the revenue and magisterial functions did not involve any change in the system or law governing the administration of criminal justice established in 1883.

 

ORGANISATION OF CIVIL COURTS

 

Ernakulam District has a place of honour in the scheme of judicial administration in Kerala as the Kerala High Court is located in Ernakulam town. But the District Judge, Ernakulam, is the highest authority in matters pertaining to the administration of justice in the District. The District Court, Ernakulam, has attached to it not only the District Judge, Ernakulam, but also three Additional District Judges, two at Ernakulam and the other at Parur. The District Judge presided over the District Court which is the principal court of original civil jurisdiction in the District. The District Court is also a court of appeal from all decrees and orders up to the value of Rs. Twenty lakhs passed by the subordinate courts from which an appeal can be preferred. The District Judge Exercise general control over all civil courts in the District and their establishment and inspects proceedings of these courts. The Additional District Judges have all the powers of the District Judge except the powers of administration and supervision. The District Judge, Ernakulam, is the State Transport Appellate Tribunal also.

 

JUDICIAL DEPARTMENT

 

The history of modern Judicial Administration in Cochin begins with the advent of the British. In ancient days there was no separate judiciary. Customs or 'Maryadas' which were believed to be based more or less in the Dharma Sastra was the law recognised in the settlement of civil and criminal disputes.

Before the creation of various courts the King was the Supreme head of the State. He enjoyed legislative, executive and judicial powers. Moreover, he was the highest court of appeal in the State. Although the King was the supreme head, in administration, he was assisted by his ministers and deputies.

 

STAGES OF DEVELOPMENT

 

The judicial system of Cochin State developed with the advent of the British. The stages of development are mentioned below.

 

1.Formation Of The Zilla Courts

 

It was during the time of Col.Munro in 1812 that a Zilla court was established in Cochin and it was placed under the orders of the Dewan. He was the then head of the executive. These courts were to enquire into all Civil and Criminal cases. But in 1845, the Zilla court was abolished and its place was taken by the Principal Subadar Amins Court. During the reign of Rama Varma (1864-1888) the designation of the Principal Subadar Amins was changed into Subordinate Judge.

 

2.Huzur Court

 

In Cochin area, the establishment of courts, presided over by regularly paid judges was one of the reforms introduced by Col.Munro. The Hukkumnamah of 1813 established two cheriya or Subordinate Courts; one at Tripunithura and the other at Trichur and 'Valiya 'court was established at Ernakulam. This court was known as Huzur court. It was presided over by the Dewan, a Hindu and a Christian Judge, and a Sastri. All disputes were to be settled according to the provisions of the “Dharma Sastra' and the custom of the land. Appeals against the decisions of the subordinate court were to be filed in the Huzur court. But in 1818 Dewan Nanjappayya by a proclamation converted Huzur court into Appeal court.

 

3.Formation Of Munsiff's Court

 

The year 1835 marks the beginning of the Munsifff Courts in Cochin state. In the same year by a regulation (First regulation of 1010M.E) the jurisdiction of the courts were extended to Taluks. As a part of it, the Tahasildars were given judicial powers. In 1852, the Tahasildar of Chittoor Taluk had been invested with the powers of a Munsiff. The Regulation I of 1861 provided for the establishment of Munsiff courts at Ernakulam and Chittoor. In 1868 a separate Munsiff court was established in Trichur Taluk, and one at Cochin Taluk in 1877 A.D. The establishment of Munsiff Courts provide some relief to the Zilla courts, where the volume of work had increased considerably. This was abolished in 1883 but was revived seven years later.

 

4. Establishment Of High Court

 

In 1882, during the reign of Rama Varma four classes of courts were constituted by Regulation I of 1881-82 viz., The Munsiff's court, the Zilla Court, the Appeal Court and his Highness the Raja's Court of appeal.

The reign of Rama Varma (1895-1914) , marks an epoch-making change in the Cochin Judicial system. By Regulation X of 1076 (1900-91) he constituted a Chief Court instead of Rajas Court of Appeal. In the same year the name of Zilla Court was changed into District Court. Village and Panchayath Courts were also set up by him in 1938 the Chief Court of Cochin was converted into High Court.

The High Court was situated in Ernakulam. Even after the formation of Kerala State on 1st November 1956, the High Court of Kerala has not been shifted from Ernakulam

 

5. Record Series

 

The Judicial records in the Regional Archive, Ernakulam consist of Judicial Vischal orders, Judicial Yadest, File Books, Petitioners, Judicial Records, records regarding every Taluk in Cochin etc.

 

 

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