INTRDODUCTION: There were many defects and weaknesses in the judicial administration of the East India company and the Adalat system. The Patna case exposed those judicial administration of the Company. In fact, the Patna case is an illustration of various defects and weaknesses in the Adalat system in Bengal, Bihar and Orissa.

FACTS: Shahbaz Beg Khan belonged to Kabul and came to India and joined the company army. After retirement, he earned extensive amount of riches and settled at Patna and married Nadirah Begum.

He called his nephew, Bahadur Beg, from Kabul to live with him and communicated his longing to adopt Bahadur Beg as his son and make him the heir of his property and the retire from this world.

But before he could give impact to his wish, he died in December, 1776 and left impressive property behind him which later on, led to battle for property between Bahadur Beg and Nadirah Begum.

The Begum claimed entire property on the basis of three documents:

  1. MEHARNAMA (Deed) – Dower
  2. HIBANAMA (Deed) – Gift
  3. IKRARNAMA (Acknowledgment).

Whereas, Bahadur Beg claimed the entire property as the adopted son of the deceased, he filed a suit against the Begum in the Patna Provincial Council which also functioned as a Diwani Court for the town.

The Patna Council gave the entire case to its law officers Kazis and Muftis and required them to collect the property and seal it, and according to “ascertained facts and legal justice” to give a written report specifying the shares of parties to the Council.

The law officers locked and sealed the house of the deceased. The widow of the deceased was insulted and humiliated to such an extent that she left the house and took refuge in a mosque. They rejected her claim holding that deeds were forged. Also, as Muslim law does not recognise adoption, Bahadur Beg’s claim was rejected as well. The deceased’s property was thus to be divided according to the Muslim law of intestate succession.

The widow approached the Supreme Court and filed an action against Bahadur Beg, the Kazis and Muftis for assault breaking and entering her house and taking away her property, and claimed damages amounting to Rupees 6 lakhs. Bahdur Beg, Kazis and Mutis were arrested and brought from Patna to Calcutta and were lodged in prison.

ISSUES RAISED: The legal issues raised in trial were:

(1) Whether Bahadur Beg, who lived outside Calcutta was subject 10 the jurisdiction of Supreme court?

(2) Whether the law officers could be prosecuted for acts done in their judicial capacity?

JUDGEMENT: On the first issue, the court said that Bahadur Beg was a farmer of land revenue and he was not different from the revenue Collector and therefore was ‘directly or indirectly in the services of the Company’. On the second issue, the court held that although the Patna Council had no jurisdiction to delegate its functions to the law officers, the Kazis and Muftis.

But the court criticised the manner in which the Kazis and Muftis had acted for ascertaining facts. All the proceedings in the Council were without any notice being given to the Begum. No regular trial was held and witnesses had not been examined on oath. Thus, the law officers were tried not for what they had done in the discharge of their regular functions, but for something outside thereto, the court had an undoubted jurisdiction over the Company’s servants.

The Supreme Court awarded damages of Rupees 3 lakhs to the widow which was quite unproportionate. The Patna case brought to light the inherent defects in the Company’s judicial system, i.e. Adalat and Council).

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