Tuesday, May 29, 2012


The Mayor’s Court did not function satisfactorily. Its decisions were on an ad hoc basis and lacked uniformity. It was also found to be easily corruptible, where decisions could be bought. It was reconstituted in 1753, after Madras was restored to the East India Company by the French, under whose occupation it was from 1746 to 1749. This reconstituted court continued to function till 1797, when a Recorder’s Court was established, to bring the administration of Madras in line with that of Calcutta.

This resulted in reduction of powers of the Mayor’s Court. The civil and criminal judicial powers of the Governor and Council were also taken away. The Mayor Court had no jurisdiction over the natives, who were bound by decisions of the Recorder’s Court. In 1801, the Recorder’s Court was merged into the Supreme Court of Judicature. The first chief justice of the Supreme Court of Madras Judicature, as it came to be known, was Sir Thomas Strange. In 1817, this court shifted next to the Customs House on First Line Beach.

The establishment of the Supreme Court of Madras Judicature and the regulation of 1802 brought in the following courts:

1.Zilla Courts or district courts for trial of civil suits in districts

2.Provincial Courts of Appeal to hear appeals from District Courts (abolished in 1843)

3.Sudder Adawlats or the Chief Court of Civil Judicature to hear appeals from the Provincial Courts of Appeal and

4.Foujdary Adawlat or Chief Criminal Court.

The Sudder courts functioned from Sudder Gardens, Luz, a property in Alwarpet at the end of Luz Church Road. A tree on Mowbray’s Road near the Luz Church Road junction in Alwarpet gained notoriety as being used to hang prisoners to death!!

The British Parliament passed the Indian High Courts Act in 1861, which empowered the Crown to establish High Courts at Madras, Bombay and Calcutta by issuing Letters Patent. Section 8 of the said act abolished the Supreme Court of Madras Judicature and the Sudder and Foujdary Adawlats. The Letters Patent of Queen Victoria was issued on 26/06/1862 and the Madras High Court formally came into existence the same year on a date that would later be the most significant in the history of modern India, 15th of August.

The High Court moved into its current buildings in 1892, work having commenced in 1888. The buildings were declared open by H.E The Right Honourable Baron Wenlock, Governor of Madras in the presence of a distinguished audience that comprised of many judges, advocates, vakils and attorneys of the High Court. The key was handed over by Colonel J.Pennycuick, the Secretary to Government in the Public Works Department (a man who had distinguished himself with the construction of the Mullaiperiyar dam) to the Governor, who then handed it over to the Chief Justice. The plans for the building had been prepared by J.W.Brassington and had been carried out by his successor to the post of Consulting Architect to the Government, Henry Irwin.

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