Sunday, 22 November 2015

First Mayor's court, Calcutta - British India

The first Mayor’s Court was established in the Presidency Town of Calcutta in1728.Coloured etching with aquatint of the Old Court House and Writers Buildings in Calcutta by Thomas Daniell (1749-1840) no. 2 of his ‘Views of Calcutta’ published in 1786. This view is taken from the north side of Tank Square and looks towards the old Fort. puronokolkata.com
During the time of British rule in  India, Calcutta was  considered  as "the second city of the British Empire" after London and was aptly renamed "City of Palaces." The Great Eastern Hotel was regarded as the symbol of British presence there. The  city of Calcutta is associated with the evolution of Justice delivery system in the country.By a royal charter, the first Corporation was set up on 4th September, 1726, consisting of a Mayor and 9 Aldermen and they were mainly concerned with discharging judicial functions as Mayor's Court.
 

It was at the Ambassador House belonging to the British East India Company,  the first Mayor’s Court was established in the Presidency Town of Calcutta in 1728. Mayor's Court was first established at
Fort William of Kolkata, presided by Henry Liol.  The site, where the Court House stood at the corner of Lalbazar and Mission Row, was  subsequently occupied later by Martin Burn and Company’s Building. This company was doing major civil contract construction work. For unknown reasons, the Mayor’s Court in 1732  was shifted  to the premises of Charity School, also known as the Free School. The two story building with impressive  columns and and urn-topped balustrade   stood on the plot   of St. Andrew’s Church, adjacent to the famous writer's building.  As seen in the picture,  the Old Court House, built  by Mr. Bourchier  in 1762, became a multipurpose building, besides its main function. Later  few modifications were made to enhance its utility as there were not that many buildings for verious administrative purposes. The same building was served  as the Town Hall of Calcutta at one time for community meetings, etc. Later  additions included  an additional saloon with a rooms as well as a dancing-saloon for  additional use such as  an Exchange office, Post Office, Quarter-Sessions Office, public entertainments, verandas,and Assembly rooms.  In the early days of this British settlement, this building was  an important land mark with growth of European community and it became a beehive of social and cultural activities in the growing town. In the next 30 years plus its reputation was such that there was no   public entertainment or assembly ball that was not associated with  Old Court House. The building became the hub of local community as it was the only gathering place. With the passage of time, toward the close of the century,  the community became divided due to class distinction. With lack of funds and fall in subscription assemblies, the building had begun to fall into ruin and at one stage too unsafe to use it. Consequently, in 1792, the curtain drew on the old building that  saw so many glittering parties, gala balls, public events, etc. Ultimately it was  razed to the ground.


Tit-Bits:

01. In 1772, Calcutta became the capital of British India, a decision made by Governor General Warren Hastings.

02. The first newspaper to be printed in India, was Hickey's Bengal Gazette or the Calcutta General Advertiser. and it was an invaluable chronicle of the social life of Anglo-Indian society in Calcutta.

03. Job Charnock,  an agent of the East India Company,  generally believed to be the founder of the Calcutta. He carefully chose the site in 1690 after careful evaluation of the surrounding areas, because it was well protected on the west side by the Hooghly River, a creek to the north, and by salt lakes about two and a half miles to the east. There were three  large villages, Sutanuti, Gobindapur and Kalikata. These three villages were bought by the British from the local land lords.

04. According to Calcutta High Court ruling in 2003, the city (of Calcutta) had been in existence since the Maurya and Gupta periods and even before the Slave Dynasty of the Delhi Sultanate and the Moguls; the French or the British established a modern township only during the later period.
Ref:
http://puronokolkata.com/category/gallery/establishments/legal-establishments/courts/