(Creation of Sheriff Post)
The Sheriff post was created in Bengal as an arm of the Supreme Court of Judicature at Fort William in Bengal by a Royal charter2 issued by King George III on 26th March 1774, Sir Elijah Impey took charge as Chief Justice and James Macrabey as sheriff. James Macrabey took charge on December 1774 but he was the sheriff for the year 1775.
[ 2) Relevant portions of the Royal Charter issued by King George III on 26th March 1774.
George The Third, by the Grace of God, of Great Britain, France, and Ireland, King, Defender of the Faith and so forth. To all to whom these presents shall come greeting . Whereas by an Act of Parliament; passed in the thirteenth year of our reign, reciting a Charter, bearing date at Westminster, the eighth day of January, in the twenty-sixth year of the reign of our Royal Grandfather, King George the Second, of glorious memory, by him granted to the United Company of Merchants of England, trading to the East -Indies, thereby, amongst other things, constituting and establishing Courts of Civil, Criminal and Ecclesiastical jurisdiction, at the said United Company’s settlements of Madraspatnam, Bombay, and Fort William in Bengal and the said charter does not sufficiently provide for the due administration of justice, in such manner as the state and condition of the Company’s Presidency of Fort William in Bengal, so long as the said Company shall remain in the possession of the territorial acquisitions therein before mentioned, do and must require, it is among other thing enacted, that it shall and may be lawful for us, by charter letters patent, under the great seal of Great Britain, to erect and establish a Supreme Court of Judicature, at Fort William in Bengal aforesaid, to consist of a Chief Justice and three other Judges being barristers England or Ireland, of not less than five years’ standing with power to exercise and to perform all civil, criminal, admiralty and ecclesiastical jurisdiction .......
Clause 8 : And we do hereby constitute and appoint Elijah Impey, of Lincon’s Inn, Esq first Chief Justice, Robert Chambers of the Middle Temple, Stephen Caesar LeMaistre of the Inner Temple, John Hyde of Lincoln’s Inn, Esqrs to be the first Puisne Justices of our said Supreme Court of Judicature at Fort William in Bengal .......
Clause 9 : And we do further, for us, our heirs and successors grant, orden, and appoint, that the person who shall be the Sheriff at Fort William in Bengal, at the time of the publication of this our charter, in manner hereinafter directed, shall be and continue the Sheriff, until another shall be duly appointed and sworn in to the said office, and we do further, for us, our heirs and successors, grant, direct, and appoint that the said Supreme Court of Judicature, at Fort William, Bengal, shall, upon the first Tuesday of December, in every year, nominate three persons, resident in the town of Calcutta, or the precincts thereof, to the Governor-General and Council, or the major part of them, who within three days after such nomination, shall appoint one of the said three persons to serve the office of Sheriff, for the year ensuing to be computed from the twentieth day of December next after such appointment, which Sheriff shall, as soon as conveniently may be, and before he shall enter upon his said office, take an oath, faithfully to execute his office, and the oath of allegiance before the Governor-General, or his absence the senior members of the Council there present who are hereby respectfully authorized to administer the same, shall continue in such office during the space of one whole year, to, be computed from the twentieth day of December, and until another shall be duly appointed and sworn into the said office, and in case such Sheriff shall die in his office or depart from the provinces of Bengal, Bihar and Orissa, then another person shall and may, as soon as conveniently may be, after the death or departure of such Sheriff, be in like manner, nominated, appointed, and sworn in as aforesaid, and shall continue in his office for the remainder of the year, or until another Sheriff shall be duly appointed and sworn into the said office, and we do further order, direct, and appoint, that the said Sheriff, and his successors, shall, by themselves or their sufficient deputies, to be by them appointed and duly authorized, under their respective hands and seals, and for whom he and they shall be responsible, during his or their continuance in such office, and he and they are hereby authorized to execute all the writs, summonses, rules, orders, warrants, commands, and processes of the said Supreme Court of Judicature, at Fort William in Bengal, and make return of the same, together with the execution thereof, to the said Supreme Court of Judicature, at Fort William in Bengal, and to receive and detain in prison such persons as shall be committed to him for that purpose, by the said Supreme Court of Judicature, at Fort William in Bengal and by the Chief Justice and Justices respectively, and we further direct, ordain, and appoint, that whenever the said Supreme Court of Judicature, at Fort William in Bengal, shall direct or award any process against the said Sheriff, or award any process, in any cause, matter, or thing, wherein the said Sheriff, on account of his being related to the parties, or any of them, or by reason of any good cause of challenge, which would be allowed against any Sheriff, in that part of Great Britain called England, cannot by law execute the same in every such case, the said Supreme Court of Judicature, at Fort William in Bengal, shall name and appoint some other fit person to execute and return the same, and the said process shall be directed to the said person so named for that purpose and the cause of such special proceedings, shall be suggested and entered on the records of the same.
[Except the provision for the continuance in office of the first sheriff, and except that official oaths have been abolished by the Indian Oath Act.(X of 1873), so that the sheriff is no longer required to take either the oath of office or of allegiance, this section is in all respects still in force.
There is no provision in the charter or elsewhere similar to that in 3 Geo,l,c, 15,s,8, by which on the death of the sheriff during his year of office, the under-sheriff or deputy sheriff appointed by him is continued in office with authority to execute the duties thereof in the name of the deceased sheriff until the appointment of another sheriff. Nor is there any provision for determining the office of the sheriff during his year of office, otherwise than by his death, or departure from the provinces of Bengal, Behar, Orissa. In 1858 the sheriff having intimated that he had become insolvent and would be obliged to seek the benefit of the Insolvency Act, another sheriff was appointed during his year of office.This suggests the question whether the sheriff appointed under the charter ‘for the space of whole one year, and until another shall be duly appointed and sworn into said office’ holds his office during the pleasure of the Government in like manner as the sheriff in England holds his office during the pleasure of the Crown.]
Clause 12 : And we do hereby further authorize and empower the said Supreme Court of Judicature, at Fort William in Bengal, to settle a table of fees to be allowed to such sheriff, and all other the officers, clerks, and Attornies aforesaid, for all and every part of the business to be done by them respectively, which fees, when approved by the said Governor and council, to whom we hereby give authority to review the same, the said sheriff and officers, clerks, and attornies shall and may lawfully demand and receive, and we do further authorize the said Supreme Court of Judicature, at Fort William in Bengal, with the like concurrence of the said Governor and council, from time to time, to vary the said table of fees, as there shall be occasion,........
Clause 13 : whereupon the said Supreme Court of Judicature, at Fort William in Bengal, shall and is hereby authorized to award and issue a summons or a precept in nature of a summons in writing, to be prepared in manner above mentioned, directed to the said sheriff, and containing a short notice of the cause of action set forth in the said plaint, and commanding the said sheriff to summon the person against whom the said plaint shall have been filed, to appear at some certain time and place therein to be specified, to answer the said plaint, which said precept, and the execution thereof, the said sheriff shall duly return to the said Supreme Court of Judicature at Fort William in Bengal.......... ]