Indian Legal History: Sultanate Period Essay.
The Delhi Sultanate is a term used to cover five short-lived dynasties, Delhi based kingdoms or sultanates, mostly of Turkic and Pashtun (Afghan) origin in medieval India. The sultanates ruled from Delhi between 1206 and 1526, when the last was replaced by the Mughal Dynasty. The five dynasties were the Mamluk dynasty (1206–90); the Khilji dynasty (1290–1320); the Tughlaq dynasty (1320–1414); the Sayyid dynasty (1414–51); and the Afghan Lodi dynasty (1451–1526).
(i) Administrative Units: The civil administration of the sultanate was headed by the Sultan and his Chief Minister (Wazir; উজির).
The sultanate was divided into administrative divisions from the province (Subah) to the village level. The province was the composition of districts (Sarkars). Each district was further divided into parganas. A group of villages constituted a pargana.
(ii) Constitution of Courts: The Mediaeval India the Sultan, being head of the State. was the supreme authority to administer justice in his kingdom. It was one of the important functions of the Sultan. It was done in three stages: Diwan-e-Qaza (arbitrator বিচারক), Diwan-e-Mazalim (Head of bureaucracy প্রধান প্রশাসনিক কর্মকর্তা), Diwan-e-Siyasat (Commander-in-Chief of forces সেনাপতি).
The courts were required to seek his prior approval before awarding the capital punishment (ফাঁসি দেওয়ার আগে কোর্টকে সুলতানের অনুমতি নিতে হইতো)
The judicial system under the Sultan was organized based on administrative divisions of the kingdom. It was classified in a systematic divisions of courts and the powers and jurisdiction of each court was clearly defined.
1. Central Capital:
Six Courts which were established at the capital of the Sultanate are follow:
a. The King’s Court
d. Sadre Johan’s Court
e. Chief Justice’s Court
The King’s Court was presided over by the Sultan. It has both original and appellate jurisdiction on all kinds of cases. It was the highest court of appeal. The Sultan was assisted by two Muftis (highly qualified in law).
Diwan-e-mazalim: The court of Diwan-e-Mazalim was the highest court of criminal appeal and the Court of Diwan-e-Risalat was the highest court of civil appeal. The Chief Justice was the second highest officer next to the Sultan.
The court of Ecclesiastical cases (ধর্ম সংক্রান্ত কেস)was transferred to the Sadre Johan. The court of Diwan-e-Siyasat was constituted to deal with the case of rebels (বিদ্রোহীদের কেস নিয়ে). The Chief Justice’s Court was established in 1206. It was presided over by the Chief Justice and dealt with all kinds of cases.
(b) Provinces: In each province(Subah; সুবাহ)had five courts namely, Adalat Nazim Subah, Adalat Qazi-e-Subah, Governor’s Bench (Nazim Subah’s Bench), Diwan-e-Subah and Sadre-e-Subah.
Adalat Nazim Subah was the Governor’s (Subedar; সুবাদার) Court. In the provinces the Sultan was represented by him. He exercised original and appellate jurisdiction like the Sultan..
While exercising his appellate jurisdiction, the Governor(সুবাদার) sat with the Qazi-e-Subah. From the decision of this bench, a final appeal was allowed to be filed in Central Court of Delhi.
Adalat Qazi-e-Subah was presided over by the Chief Provincial Qazi. He was empowered to try civil and criminal cases. Appeals form this court made to the Adalat Nazim-e-Subah.
The Court of Diwan-e-Subah was the final authority in the province in all cases concerning land revenue.
The Sadre-e-Subah was the Chief Ecclesiastical Officer in the province. He represented Sadre Johan, in Subah matters relating to grant of stipend, lands etc.
(c) Districts: In each district (Sarkar) at he district headquarter, six courts ware established namely: Qazi, Dadbaks or Mir Adls, Faujdars, Sadre, Amils and Kotwals. The Court of the District was empowered to hear all original civil and criminal cases. Appeals were also filed before this court from the judgements of the Pargana Qazis, Kotwals and village pachayats. The court was presided over by the District Qazi who appointed on the recommendation of the Qazi-e-Subah or directly by Sadre Johan.
(d) Parganas: At each pargana headquarter two courts were established, namely, Qazi-e-Pargana and Kotwal. The court of Qazi-e-Pargana had all the powers of a District Qazi in all civil and criminal cases except hearing appeals. Petty criminal cases were filed before the Kotwal. He was the Principal Executive Officer in towns.
(e) Villages: A pargana was divided into a group of villages. For each group of villages there was a village assembly or panchayet. It’s a body of five leading men to look after the executive and judicial affairs. The Sarpanch or Chairman was appointed by the Nazim or the Faujder. The Panchayets decided civil and criminal cases of a purely local character.
(iii) Judicial Reforms of Sher Shah: In 1540 Sher Shah laid the foundations of Sur Dynasty in India after defeating the Mughal Emperor Humayun, son of Babar. Sher Shah ruled only for five years. he introduced various remarkable reforms in the administrative and judicial system fo his kingdom. His important judicial reforms as follows:-
1. . Sher Shah introduced the system of having the pargans, separate courts of first instance for civil and criminal cases. At each pargana, he stationed a Civil Judge called Munsif.
2. When a Munsif was appointed, his duties were specifically enumerated.
3. The duties of Governors and their deputies regarding the preservation of law and order were emphasised.
4. Moqoddomas or heads of the village Councils ware recognized amd were ordered to prevent theft and robberies. In cases of robberies, they were made up to pay for the loss sustained by the victim. Police regulations were now drawn up for the first time in India.
5. The judicial officers below the Chief Provincial Qazi were transferred after every two or three years. The practice continued in British India.
6. The Chief Qazi of the province or the Qazi-ul-Quzat was the some cases authorized to report directly to the Emperor on the conduct of the Governor.