Lord Cornwallis 1786-93 and Cornwallis Code

Lord Cornwallis

Lord Cornwallis is Father of civil services in India

Prior to Cornwallis’s tenure, company employees were allowed to trade on their own accounts and use company ships to send their own goods back to Europe.

This practice was tolerated when the company was profitable, but by the 1780s the company’s finances were not in good shape.

Lord Cornwallis eliminated the practice, increasing employee salaries in compensation.


In 1790 he introduced circuit courts with company employees as judges and set up a court of appeals in Calcutta.

He had the legal frameworks of Muslim and Hindu law translated into English and promulgated administrative regulations and a new civil and criminal code.

This work, introduced in 1793, was known as the Cornwallis Code.

He introduced the Permanent Settlement system.


Cornwallis Code

The Code instituted a type of racism.

It placed the British as an elite class on top of the hierarchy of caste and religion that existed in India at the time.

The code contained significant provisions – governing, policing and judicial and civil administration.

Its best-known provision was the Permanent Settlement (or the zamindari system enacted in 1793), which established a revenue collection scheme that lasted into the 20th century.

Beginning with Bengal, the system spread over all of northern India by means of the issue of a series of regulations dated 1 May 1793.

On these, the government of British India virtually rested until the Charter Act of 1833.

The system, as codified in these regulations, provided that the East India Company’s service personnel be divided into three branches: revenue, judicial, and commercial.

The land revenue assessment (the major source of revenue) was fixed permanently with zamindars or hereditary revenue collectors.

These native Indians, provided they paid their land taxes punctually, were treated as landowners, but they were deprived of magisterial and police functions, which were discharged by a newly organized government police.

This “permanent settlement” provided the British with an Indian landed class interested in supporting British authority.

The local administration was placed in the hands of the revenue collectors of districts.

The judiciary was reorganized; there were district judges with magisterial powers responsible to provincial courts in civil cases and to courts of the circuit in criminal cases.

The law administered was Hindu and Muslim personal law and a modified Muslim criminal code.

The higher ranks of the services were restricted to Europeans only.


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