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English law: good for Tartar & Hindu - Intro of "belligerent civilisation" to India

nabadip - Fri, 22 Apr 2005 13:14:27 +0530
English law: good for Tartar & Hindu

The Supreme Court of India: Institutionalising the foundation of Indo-British law. A Telegraph picture

Commenting on English law and its imposition on India, Macaulay, who was convinced of the total supremacy of Western civilisation, had written in his minutes: “I cannot believe it cannot do for a Hindu what it did for the Tartar”, in other words, the Russians.

Prof Pradip Sinha, delivering the Nisith Ranjan Ray Memorial Lecture on ‘Approaching Social History — Calcutta’, organised by the Society for Preservation, Calcutta, spoke at length on how the Supreme Court, an example of “belligerent civilisation”, institutionalised itself and laid the foundation of Indo-British law.

Prof Sinha, who is at present working on Hyde’s Papers at Victoria Memorial Hall, turned what could have been a forbiddingly dry talk, into a lucid account of how English law, at the initial stages, came into conflict with the Hindu legal system.

To them, the Hindu Shastra was a potential source of uncertainty, whereas their law epitomised certainty.

In the 18th Century, the biggest question was, who is the government? No governor-general of the company could claim he was ruler of India. This question was not legally solved till the late 1790s.

However, as Prof Sinha said, the Regulating Act was a “classic case of bumbling”, which was not uncharacteristic of those times in 18th Century. English law is very complex, quite unlike the systems prevailing in Europe which were based on the Roman model. It was introduced in India in a tentative way, though the system with its legacy of legal quibbling continues to hold sway over our country.

English law was applied in the strictest sense in the Nanda Kumar case and in about 10 years’ time, it was considered “untenable”.

In spite of the initial blunders and mistakes and high-handedness of the ruling civilisation, Sir William Jones comes out as the most civilised exponent of the law in the Indian city in the late 18th Century.

His relatively humane approach modified the rigours of English law.

Later, English-educated Bengalis tried to find an alternative to the belligerent civilisation. This was the quest of leaders and poet-philosophers like Gandhi and Tagore.

The shroffs of that period had no faith in the Supreme Court because they believed it brought their credit down. So they would never go to court.

Prof Sinha stressed that it was only in the dispute over the will of Priyamvada Birla that a baniya family has first gone to court.

Prof Sinha concluded by saying that he is not sure that the belligerence does not continue. We are being increasingly subjected to global culture and this is something he cannot come to terms with.

nabadip - Wed, 01 Jun 2005 11:43:38 +0530
On The Raj: The British in India
By Akhilesh Mithal

From Asian Age

The British refer to the period of their rule in India 1757-1947 as ‘The Raj’. The emphasis is on ‘The’ and pride inspires the voice when the phrase ‘The Raj’ is intoned. No one mentions the nearly hundred famines in the two centuries of British rule. The exorbitant rates of land revenue levied made sure that there was no surplus or cushion with peasants. Each famine cost three to five million lives as the alien rulers had no feelings for native lives or suffering.

Undernourishment at a critical stage of physical and mental development left millions more subhuman and vulnerable. The long lasting result is that Indians are more prone to diabetes and cardio-vascular diseases than any other racial group in the world. The British need to face facts and make amends not only by apologising for their intrusion but also by financing research into ways and means for addressing genes prone to pancreas and cardiac damage.

While independent India has not permitted a famine like the Great Bengal Famine of 1943 to sully its record it has done little to address another evil. This is the tortuous and quite incompetent system for delivering justice introduced by the British in 1774. The number of cases pending at all levels is astronomical. The popular saying is

Joa jeet gayaa woa haar gayaa; joa haar gayaa soa murr gayaa
(The one who wins a case in Court is as badly off as if he were the loser; the loser would have been better off dead.)