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Amending Act of 1781 or Act of Settlement or Declaratory Act of 1781

Background-

The Amending Act of 1781 was passed by the British Parliament on 5th July 1781 to remove the defects of Regulating Act 1773. It is also known as the Declaratory Act, 1781. The key provision of this act was to demarcate the relations between the Supreme Court and the Governor-General in Council. Also known as the Act of Settlement.

Features of Act-

  1. It exempted the Governor-General and the Council from the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court for the acts done by them in their official capacity.
  2. Under the Regulating Act 1773, the servants of the company came within the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court, and this brought them under the dual control of Governor-General in Council and Supreme Court.  it also exempted the servants of the company from the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court for their official actions.
  3. It excluded the revenue matters and the matters arising in the collection of revenue from the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court.
  4. It provided that the Supreme Court was to have jurisdiction over all the inhabitants of Culcutta. It also required the court to administer the personal law of the defendants i.e., Hindus were to be tried according to the Hindu law and Muslims were to be tried according to the Mohammedan law. Thus the court’s geographic jurisdiction became limited to only Calcutta.
  5. It laid down that the appeals from the Provincial Courts could be taken to the Governor-General-in-Council and not to the Supreme Court.
  6. It empowered the Governor-General-in council to frame regulations for the Provincial Courts and Councils.

The above discussion makes it clear that the Amending Act of 1781 was the first attempt in India towards the separation of the executive from the judiciary by defining the respective areas of jurisdiction.

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