Trending: Call for Papers Volume 4 | Issue 3: International Journal of Advanced Legal Research [ISSN: 2582-7340]

Judicial Reforms Of Lord Wellesley


Richard Colley Wellesley, Marquez Wellesley, member of British privy council and a commissioner of the India Board of Control. In May 1798, he arrived in India and succeed Sir John shore as a Governor-General. Wellesley remains the Governor-General from (1798 to 1805). 

He called himself ‘Sheer-e-Bengal[1]’ of India. Wellesley always believes in the war he followed the policy of expansion an extended the British territory through the so-called policy Subsidiary Alliance. For this, he used military force and diplomacy to strengthen and expand British territory as he came with the mindset of converting India into an empire of Britain. Another aim which was ancillary to his main objective was the removal of French influence from India.2 Wellesley introduced certain major judicial reforms to improve the administration of justice.

1. Subsidiary alliance

The subsidiary alliance was known as “Non-intervention policy”[2] this controversial policy, the subsidiary alliance was a treaty between the East India Company and the local Indian Rulers to strengthen the British Empire in India. In return a payment or subsidy the company would give the Garrison troops in that ruler’s territory to fight against their enemies, in the simple meaning, it means military help. For example- If a King is facing a problem in his Kingdom or facing some external threat, then he will ask for military help and some other King will offer him the help by giving the army to protect the borders. The pioneer of this system or the brainchild behind this policy is given by the French governor ‘Duplex’. When he rented his army to Hyderabad away back in 1740 Lord Wellesley made some changes in this policy and he used it extends extensively to expand his army across India. He signed the treaty with many other local rulers either voluntary or forcefully.

Key principles of the subsidiary alliance were[3]:

Ø The Indian rulers would accept British forces in their territory and also pay their cost of maintenance.
Ø The ruler will accept a British residence in his state.
Ø The ruler would accept a British would not enter into any further alliance or war with any power.
Ø The ruler would not employ any other European than British.

The benefit for the British was whomsoever signing this treaty the entire expense of this British Army will be taken care of by the local army. So, without having any burden on their exchequer they were able to maintain huge army across India and if any problem is there in that area, then they can simply mobilize this army and can solve the issue.Wellesley beautifully crafted this policy. Some state who signed the treaty were The Nizam of Hyderabad 1790, The State of Mysore 1799, Awadh 1801, Peshwa 1802.

2. Impact of subsidiary alliance on Indian rulers

The Nizam of Hyderabad by signing this treaty lost an Indian state virtually its independence. It caused the right of self-defence of maintaining diplomatic relation of employing Foreign Relations.[4] In fact, the Indian ruler lost all vestiges of sovereignty and its external matters and became increasingly subservient to the British resident who inferred in the administration of the state from day today. This treaty leads to the disbandment of the armies of protected state. Lakhs of army officers and soldiers are deprived of their hereditary livelihoods, spreading misery and degradation in the country. It was very disastrous to the Indian state.

Advantages of the subsidiary alliance to British:

Ø British could maintain a large army at the cost of the Indian states.
Ø They were able to fight a big war far away from their own territories.
Ø They controlled the defence and foreign relation of the protected ally.
It was well said by one British writer that ‘Subsidiary alliance is a system of fattening allies as we fatten oxen, till they were worthy of being devoured.[5]

3. The 4th Anglo Mysore War, 1799

The 4th Anglo Mysore war combines both the foreign and domestic threat to British control in India.[6] The 4th Anglo Mysore war was a final confrontation between British East India Company and King of Mysore. Tipu Sultan asks to ascended the throne of Mysore in 1782 after the death of his father Haider-Ali. In 1796 the ruler of Woodyard dynasty died. Tipu refused to place Woodyard minor child on the throne and declared himself as Sultan. He was known as ‘Tiger of Mysore’. People started growing friendship with French which become a matter of concern for the British. In March 1799, British attacked Tipu sultan, conquered Sedasir and Malvedis. Charges were made against people which mentioned that he was plotting against British, Martha, Nizam by taking support from Arabia, Afghanistan, Kabul, France and Versailles. The war began on 17th April 1799 and ended on May 1799. Tipu was also defeated by General Stuart and General Harris. Tipu was the main reason for war with East India company because he is against the policy of the subsidiary alliance. ‘Isle-de-France’, Anne Josephson in January 1798.[7] In history, Tipu’s death defines as ‘An Honourable Death than a Dis-honourable Pact.’

4. The Censorship Act, 1799

The growth of press and journalism formed an important background for the rise of a new consciousness during the modern period. [8] During the 19 century, a large number of newspapers in the local language also started. James August Hickey published the first newspaper in the Indian name ‘Bengal Gadget’ in 1780 followed by Calcutta Chronicle 1786, Madras courier 1788. In 1799 Lord Wellesley bought the Censorship of Press Act.[9] Lord Wellesley thought the idea was to stop the French from publishing anything which could harm the British in any way. This act bought all the newspaper lender under government scrutiny. Lord Metcalf a then Governor-General 1835-36 known as the Liberator of the Indian press[10] he repealed the licencing regulation of 1823. During his tenure printing press grew rapidly the new Metcalfe Act 1835 required the publisher to follow a registration procedure and give a precise account of the premise of publication.

5. Fort William college

Fort William College was the learning centre of many languages.[11] It was founded on 10th July 1800 in Kolkata, British India and established by Lord Wellesley. The founder of Fort William college is the 1st Marque’s Wellesley and Richard Wellesley. Many books have been translated into Bengali, Hindi, Sanskrit, Arabic, Persian and Urdu languages. This is to train the civil servants of British India. But the Court of Director of the British India company was never in support of Training College in Calcutta. Fort William College located at Strand Road, Fort William Hastings, Kolkata. Ever before Wellesley decided to establish Fort William College in 1800 there was sporadic attempt to transform the arrogant and greedy company servants into responsible civil servant familiar with the language and custom of people he administered.[12]

6. Separation of Judicial Function from Executive

Lord Wellesley was against the concentration of judicial, legislative and executive power in the Governor-General in Council. In a dispatch to the court of director on date 9th July 1800, Governor-General Lord Wellesley forcefully marshalled the argument in favour separating the Sadar Adalat and from the government. He rightly stated therein: “A conscientious discharge of the duties of the Sadar Diwani Adalat and Nizamat Adalat would of itself occupied the whole time of the Governor-General in council the proper duty of this court is not confined to the determination of the costs which are brought before them. It is also the duty to superintend the conduct of all other causes to watch over the general policy of the country and to frame for the concentration of Governor-General in council, new laws as cases may arise demanding for further legislative provision… It is physically impossible that the Governor-General in council can ever dedicate that time and attention to the duties of this court, which must necessarily be required for their due discharge. It is impossible to have the benefit of a regular and systematic government without numerous laws and the further due administration of those laws, the necessary establishment would be provided.”

[1] Dr. Shanthi Jubilee & Tmt S.K. Rajeshwari, TAMILNADU BOARD HISTORY- CLASS XII 24(1st ed. 2007). 2 Mahesh Shantaram, Wellesley: Aims, Policy and Estimate, HISTORY DISCUSSION (Jan. 5, 2021, 8:55 P.M.) https://www.historydiscussion.net/british-india/wellesley-aims-policy-and-estimate/5939.
[2] Shakeel Anwar, Key points on Subsidiary Alliance, Jagran Josh (Jan. 6, 2021, 12:43 P.M.) https://m.jagranjosh.com/general-knowledge/amp/key-points-on-subsidiary-alliance-1443008884-1.
[3] Our Pasts- III Part- 2, History, NCERT, Class- VIII; See at: https://ncert.nic.in/ncerts/l/hess2ps.pdf.
[4] See at: https://www.marxist.org.
[5] Prem Prabhat, Subsidiary Alliance of Lord Wellesley: Impact on Indian States; See at: http://www.shershahcollege.co.in/fileupload/uploads/5eb0e9a1adee920200505042049Expansion%20under%20 Lord%20Wellesley.pdf.
[6] Ryan Campbell, 15 Richard Wellesley and Fourth Anglo Mysore War (2019); See at: https://digitalcommons.lasalle.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1057&context=the_histories. 8 Jac Weller, Wellington in India 26-27.
[7] J. Whittle, ‘Original Criticism’ 120.
[8] Social Changes in Modern India, Growth of Press in India 38.
[9] Censorship Act 1799, GK Today (Jan. 8, 2021, 8:56 P.M.) https://www.gktoday.in/gk/censorship-act1799/amp/.
[10] Rupesh Kumar, History and Indian Press and Censorship, 2 IJAER 425-426 (2017).
[11] Department of Tourism, Government of West Bengal; See at: https://wbtourismgov.in/destination/place/Fort_William_College.
Image Source
Author: Saksham Khanna

Leave a Comment

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