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Colonial Cases

Minor cases Bombay

The Bombay Times, 27 February 1839

COURIER, February 18.


   A case of considerable importance to the Native Community occupied the attention of the Supreme Court last week.  We shall endeavour to procure the particulars before our next issue.

   It appears that according to the custom of the comity caste the eldest son of a family of brothers is entitled to the offer of the hand of the daughter of the second brother, and in case of her marrying without her cousin's consent, the neglected relation is entitled to a compensation in the shape of damages.  In the present case the Plaintiff brings an action against his uncle for not giving his daughter in marriage, and not making him an offer of her hand.  The Judges were very anxious that the matter should be settled out of Court; but the parties disagreed so entirely that nothing less than a public trial would satisfy them.

   We have since heard that the Case has been postponed to the 27th instant, and that it is likely to occupy the Court many days.  It appears that the interest which this trial has excited is very general amongst all classes of the Native Community.


The Bombay Times, 24 April 1839

HURKARU, April 10.


   The Supreme Court decided yesterday, that a writ of sequestration under the charter, against houses, lands, goods, or debts, so far binds the property sequestered, that even the subsequent insolvency of the debtor and assignment under the Insolvent Act, although before judgment recovered, cannot operate to defeat the right.  A purchaser, therefore, at a Sheriff's Sale, will be safe in buying the property even of an Insolvent sold under a sequestration, provided of course that the sequestration itself was anterior to the insolvency.  Indeed, the decision of the Court seems to place this writ (which is quite peculiar to this country and unknown in England) precisely upon a footing with writs of fieri facias, and other writs of execution upon final process.  This may be a secret worth knowing, as it is said that members of the "Wide Awake Club" may sometimes get good bargains at Sheriff's sales!


The Bombay Times, 28 August 1839

HURKARU, August 19.

   A case of coining was tried in the Supreme Court in the present Sessions; but, as the only act which could be brought home to the prisoners was "drilling holes" in rupees and plugging them with lead and pewter, and as there is no statutory provision which extends to such tricks played in Indian coin, the indictment was necessarily laid as a "conspiracy" to debase the coin, and defraud the public.

   There seems to be a question, too, whether this indictment (upon which the prisoners have been convicted) can be sustained, as there seems to be nothing which makes the act itself of drilling holes in coin expressly illegal, although we believe that method of debasing money to be one of the most common contrivances for defrauding the public, resorted to by the coiners of Calcutta.  The Statute only contains provisions against "counterfeiting" coin, and "uttering" or "having in possession" false and counterfeit coin; but, there is nothing said of the offence of "clipping," "plugging," and the like.  The sooner the defect is remedied by some legislative enactment, the better for the public.

   We certainly do not know of many greater nuisances that having a host of pewter rupees palmed off on one's unsuspecting simplicity; and if it becomes known that such tricks upon the coin of the realm may be played off with impunity, we have a notion that pewter and lead will specially be at a premium, and that rupees of genuine silver will be scarce commodities in the bazar.


The Bombay Times, 15 July 1840


   The Hon'ble Sir John W. Awdry, Kt., Chief Justice.

   The Hon'ble Sir Henry Roper, Kt., Puisne Justice of the Supreme Court of Judicature at Bombay, on the bench.

   There were no cases of particular interest this day.

   At ½ past one o'clock, the Grand Jury entered the court, and the following address, was read by the Clerk of the Crown:-

MY LORDS, - From the examination of the Witnesses in the cases of murder by the convicts on Board the Barque Virginia, the Grand Jury are unanimously of opinion, that vessels so weakly manned, and the crew consisting entirely of Natives of the country, should never be employed by the Government for the conveyance of convicts under sentence of transportation; or if employed for this purpose that a strong guard of soldiers should be sent in the vessel.

Here Sir H. Roper prevented the Clerk of the Crown from reading the presentment, but after reading it His lordship returned it to the Clerk, requesting him to read the remainder.

The Grand Jury, from the evidence before them, are of opinion that the thefts and plunders on the occasion of the late wreck would not probably have been so numerous, had a sufficient body of soldiers been posted on the beach and had there been a directing authority, to whom all on the spot could have referred for orders.

   The Grand Jury beg leave to draw the attention  of your Lordship to a case of very general complaint among the Residents of this Island, namely:- The want of a law or Ordinance to regulate the Numbers, Fares, &c., of Palanquin Bearers, owners of Boats, Buggies, Hackberries, &c., who let out their conveyances, for public hire, - and to recommend that a measure so much wanted for the convenience of the public, be as soon as possible granted, to prevent the numerous impositions and grievous annoyances to which they are now subjected.

   The Grand Jury have reason to believe that for some time past an opinion has very generally prevailed, that the salubrity of the Island has in the last few years been much affected, and cases of Fever be come more numerous and frequent, than formerly, owing, it is thought, to the greatly increased plantation of Trees, the density of the Woods, and to quantities of water being confined in many places in a stagnant and fetid state.  The Grand Jury consider therefore this subject as most deserving of every enquiry, and meriting a full investigation by the Government.

   The Grand Jury trust your Lordship will be pleased to being these subjects to the consideration of the Hon'ble the Governor in Council.

   A Deputation from the Grand Jury have visited the jail and House of Correction, both of which they found kept in a clean and orderly manner, and they received no complaints but of a trivial character, which the Sheriff promised the Grand Jury he will see remedied.

   Sir H. Roper in reply stated, as regarded what had been mentioned regarding Wrecks, he believed there was not a sufficiency of European Troops in the Garrison to have afforded a proper Guard - but that the Police force was ample, and he could not but ascribe negligence to the Magistrates, on the occasion. -

   He agreed with the grand Jury as to the encreased vegetation, he might say the jungle, on the Island; - the presentment would be handed up to the Government, from whom he doubted not an investigation would be instituted. -

   He considered also the want of a regulation for Hannauls, Boatmen, &c. &c. was a real cause of complaint to the community, and concluded by congratulating the Grand Jury on the completion of their labours.


The Bombay Times, 22 July 1840


We have most obligingly been furnished with a copy of the proceedings on the late trials in the Supreme Court but regret that their extreme length precludes our offering more than a brief summary.  The Honourable Sir Edward Gambier was presiding Judge on the occasion.

   The cases which were not numerous, were all of a trifling character with the exception of one of a murderous [..............].  This was of a Moosulmannee woman named [.......] Sahibah, accused of destroying her own infant as noticed by us some weeks ago.  The charge however fell to the ground for want of evidence, and the prisoner was acquitted of the Murder without a moment's deliberation.



The Bombay Times, 9 September 1840

   Our contemporary the Gazette, in remarking upon the late decision of the Supreme Court in the case of Ravagur Cowague v. Lowe, observes that the question eventually must be in whom does the Bill of lading vest the property?  This we conceive to be an erroneous view, for the bill of lading does not necessarily confer the property of any person, nor can it in any case be regarded as more than a prima facie evidence of property.

   A bill of lading is a mere authority to receive goods.  The consignee named in it has the right to demand and receive the goods, and can, it is conceived, enforce that right by an action of trover, having for that purpose a special property in the goods; but he cannot maintain an action on the special contract to carry and safely deliver, unless the shipment was made on his account, and at his risk, and for his benefit. The late decision mainly rested on the authority of Sargent v. Morris, and whatever may be the inconvenience of the present state of the law, it is quite clear that the Supreme Court with that case before them, could not have decided Ravagur v. Lowe in any other way than they did.  The following are the remarks of the Gazette:-

We republish from the Bombay Times a report of a trial in the Supreme Court, together with a letter from "Mercator" on a question of undoubted interest to this community - The question being whether a Consignee of named in a bill of Lading, may sue when the property is in the consignor. - Our contemporary Editor of the Times appears to imagine that "Mercator" is wrong in supposing that the Court decided such question as above stated in the negative.  We have made enquiries and the result is that the Counsel for the Plaintiff was not called upon by the Court to argue any other question than whether the Consignee (the property being in the Consignor) could maintain an action.  It is attempted to support the decision by evading the real question - which is in whom for the law vests the property - and resting the decision on the form of action, which was assumpsit for non-delivery.  The attempt is ingenious but cannot be successful, for it must eventually come round to the question at last in whom does the bill of lading vest the property? 

   If in the Consignee it cannot be maintained for a moment that an action of Assumpsit is not supportable - for not one but a hundred instances may be produced from the books, of the cosigner's bringing assumpsit for the goods.  If such were doubted for a moment we could fill a column with authorities.



The Bombay Times, 7 October 1840


   The Englishman placed before his readers yesterday the report of a decision in the Supreme Court at Bombay, published in the Times of that Presidency, and which it has been thought appropriate to designate an "important legal decision," but, we believe, the decision is perfectly coincident with what every lawyer in the Presidency knew before, namely, that the consignee of a bill of lading cannot bring an action for damages against a Shipper for a breach of the contract entered into between the latter and the consignor, and to which he (the consignee) is nor a party.  The consignee's remedy is for the non-delivery of the goods, and it was on the ground that the remedy had been mistaken that the Plaintiff was non-suited.  This is especially explained by the editor of the Bombay Times in his remarks upon the case. - Cal. Courier, Sept. 22.



The Bombay Times, 21 November 1840

MANGALORE. - G. S. Hooper, Esq., Provincial Judge of the Western Division, arrived at Mangalore on circuit, and opened the Court upon the 26th ult.  Thirteen cases, says our correspondent, are on the regular calendar, but seventeen are to be decided on the present visit of the Judge, and several of these are of a serious nature, one of which is for kidnapping, a crime very common about Mangalore, particularly the kidnapping of young girls, as they, it is said, find a ready sale with the Arabs who frequent that Port in great numbers, and convey these unfortunates to their own country.


The Bombay Times, 21 November 1840


   The following are extracts from our Mofussil Correspondence received since our last issue:-

   KAMPTREE, November 1. - Shaik Ebraam, a private of the 49th Regt. N. I. who was lately tried by a Gen. Court Martial for theft, and sentenced to one year's imprisonment with hard labour in irons, is now about to be tried a second time for a still graver offence, the particulars of which are as follows.

   The confirmed proceedings of the Court having been received from Madras, a parade was ordered, for the purpose of the sentence being read, preparatory to the handing over of the prisoner to the Civil authorities, when the prisoner commenced abusing the drill Havildar in most violent and vulgar language.  The Commanding Officer, in consequence, directed the guard to remove the prisoner from the parade ground; but this was not very easily effected, for on the order being given, the prisoner suddenly seized the Naigue's musket, and pointed it at the Adjutant; but with great presence of mind, that Officer knocked the weapon aside.  A scuffle then ensued between the prisoner and the guard, in which the former endeavoured to possess himself of a bayonet, but without success.  He was ultimately secured, but with considerable difficulty, having given the three or four active men who had charge of him such trouble as they had not experienced for many a long day.

   I should observe that in addition to a year's imprisonment and hard labour, the Court had sentenced him to receive fifty lashes on his bare back; but this part of the sentence his Excellency the Commander in Chief had remitted.  It is to such men that the lash would do good.


The Bombay Times, 28 November 1840

From our Mofussil Correspondence, received since out last issue, we have made the following extracts.

MANGALORE, November 10.

   The Court of Circuit still continues open, and it is expected that its proceedings will not terminate for twelve or fourteen days to come.  Eight cases have been already disposed of, and several still remain for investigation and decision.  The proceedings on two cases, one for rape and the other for murder, and pending the approval and confirmation of the Court of Sudr Foujatree Adawlut.



The Bombay Times, 9 December 1840


   On Saturday last a case came on before the Supreme Court, in which a peon, formerly belonging to the Military Board appeared arraigned at the bar, for appropriating the sum of fifty rupees, being half the change of a hundred rupee note with which he had been sent to the bank for silver.  It was sworn, on the prosecution, by the native Clerk who have him the paper, that it was a single note of one hundred rupees; that he put this note into the prisoner's hand; and that the prisoner also received another note of fifty rupees from a clerk (Mr. Wilkinson) at the next desk, to being him the change.  The whole sum [creased, line missing] one hundred and fifty rupees; but this he did not do, he only brought back one hundred, fifty of which he gave to Mr. Wilkinson, and the other fifty to the clerk, who gave him the one hundred rupee note.

   The evidence then stated that he sent the Havildar over to the bank to enquire what change had been given to the prisoner, and was informed that one hundred and fifty had been given.  One cashier and two shroffs, belonging to the bank swore, that one hundred and fifty had been given; but notwithstanding the enquiry that had been made about the missing fifty, no document nor any evidence of any sort had been kept; all had been torn up, both the order of the cashier upon the shroffs, and the shroffs own list of disbursements.

   There was also some curious shuffling and incongruity amongst this triple evidence; for instance, one witness knew the prisoner very well; he was in the habit of coming to the bank with chits, and notes to change; then again, he had no recollection of his ever coming with a note to get changed; never? - no, never.  When reminded of what had previously fallen from him, he informed the Court that he had made a reservation as to the time the prisoner brought the notes, on which he was giving evidence.  Another witness recollected what the prisoner had said when receiving the change, but the sayings of other sepoys had entirely faded from his memory.

   All this however told nothing in favor of the prisoner, and afforded but little chance of an acquittal.  But the collision and opposition of evidence now began.  The clerk's assistant, when brought forward, deposed that two notes of fifty each were given by the clerk to the peon, and that Mr. Wilkinson instead of giving his note himself to the peon as sworn by the Clerk, gave it to the latter, who delivered it to the sepoy.  Mr. Wilkinson corroborated this statement; and it was satisfactorily proved by Mr. Gonsalves that the Purvoe had given the peon two notes of fifty rupees; that he afterwards gave him Mr., Wilkinson's note; that he then withdrew one of the two, which he had previously given him; and that he ordered him to bring one hundred rupees and not one hundred ad fifty.

   The concurrent testimony of the Clerk's assistant, Mr. Wilkinson, and Mr. Gonsalves, also went on to prove that the Purvoe complained of having lost a fifty rupees note; and that he was advised to search for it amongst his papers, which he did; when questioned on this point, the Clerk stoutly denied having ever lost a note at all, or of having ever complained of losing one, or of searching amongst his papers for one. After Mr. Gonsalves, the last evidence called, had delivered a very clear and succinct testimony, His Lordship enquired of the Jury whether they wished the case top proceed further; the Jury agreed that there was not the least occasion, and immediately pronounced a verdict of not guilty.  [Editorial comment follows.]


The Bombay Times, 19 December 1840

   The Criminal Sessions of the Supreme Court for the Western Province closed on Friday last, but we have not yet been put in possession of the particular cases tried. ....


The Bombay Times, 30 December 1840

   The late "melancholy events" at Lahore are by all accounts not likely to turn-out "Natural events," but one of those little tragedies which   we occasionally see got up at Native Courts for the furtherance of private ends, and the gratification of private feelings.

   The authorship in this case is ascribed to Deean Singh, who has proved himself a "dead hand" at his work; in conjunction with the widow of No Nihal, for like the tragedies of Beaumont and Fletcher, the present has a double authorship.  By them was effected the murder of Kurruck Singh by the old fashioned means of poison, and of his son Now Nehal by the somewhat ingenious expedient of a beam adjusted so as to fall upon him at a given sign.  The next act was to open with Sher Singh as Raja, and Deean Singh as "Mayor of the Palace," the Sher being more manageable than the two who were put out of the way, and having little of the Lion in him beyond the name.  Whether he was to be "removed" when an heir had been prepared, through which to lead to a Regency by Deean Singh and his co-adjutress, has not, we believe, transpired, but there are grounds for supposing it was part of the original plot; which may still be worked out, for all that the interference of the British Government is likely to do to defeat it. All ulterior arrangements were, we suppose, left to time and circumstances, though there can be little doubt that the tragedy would have increased in horrors and interest to the last "exeunt omnes."

   The Governor General is, we are given to understand, in possession of information showing that Deean Singh poisoned Kurrukh Singh, and afterwards effected the murder of his son by some other means - the story of the beam being much questioned.  The version given to the public was supplied to the Lahore Times, Morning Chronicle, or whatever the leading Lahore journal which be called, by Deean Singh, (for unlike the Moofussil or even the Calcutta, the Sikh Press is a very venal one, lending itself out for a consideration to all jobs and parties,) who gave it the peculiarly innocent aspect it wears.  Murder will, however, out; and in this case, we understand, the recrimination or quarrels about the spoils between the criminals led to the disclosure of - even for a Native Court - a scene of complicated and sanguinary villainy.

   We give this merely as news, and refrain for the present from entering into the reflections it gives rise to, and in what form it will probably affect our relations with the Punjaub, for affect them it must, in some way.  It is, however, very clear, that there will be ere long some work for out military friends in the Punjaub - or in our own Provinces, repelling the Sikhs.



The Bombay Times, 30 December 1840


Five persons were fined yesterday at the Supreme Court, by Sir John Peter Grant, for absence from the Petty Jury, 50 Rupees each.  Messrs. Arthur Newberry, D. E. Malloch, Vincent Rees, J. Taylor, and John Spence.  This is we believe the third or fourth instance that Messrs. Spence, Malloch and Rees, have been fined.


   Two manjees had been severely assaulted by Mr. Moxon the Pilot; they applied to the chief Magistrate for redress and obtained a summons against Mr. Moxon; it was served upon him last Friday, but he did not appear, consequently a warrant was issued, and constable Thornton had to execute it; previous to execution the Chief Magistrate sent him to the Bankshall to inform the Master Attendant that the process was on against Mr. Moxon, so that the vessel he may have to take down will not be put to inconvenience.

   Thornton proceeded to Mr. Moxon's house, but was informed that he was not at home, but on board the Severn, which ship he was engaged to take down; he went on board in the evening but did not find him.  About 4 o'clock the next morning he went on board again; the vessel was weighing anchor and was soon in tow of a steamer; Thornton did not see mr. Moxon, and knowing full well that he was on board searched about without success till he was carried beyond Garden Reach, when he got upon the rigging and spied Mr. Moxon stowing himself very snugly in the foretop, from where he was giving his orders; as soon as he saw Thornton he got down from the opposite side, a regular chase took place up and down the rigging which afforded great amusement to all on board.  Thornton thinking that if he arrested Mr. Moxon he would put the ship in distress, gave up the chase and returned.

Published by Centre for Comparative Law, History and Governance at Macquarie Law School