Supreme Court of Judicature at Fort William

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Supreme Court of Judicature at Fort William
Old Fort William plate15.jpg
Supreme Court of Judicature at Fort William, c. 1786
EstablishedOctober 22, 1774; 248 years ago (1774-10-22)
Dissolved1862; 161 years ago (1862)
LocationCalcutta, Bengal, British India
Authorized byRegulating Act of 1773
Appeals toPrivy Council of the United Kingdom
Judge term lengthLife tenure
Number of positions4 by statute

The Supreme Court of Judicature at Fort William in Calcutta, was founded in 1774 by the Regulating Act of 1773. It replaced the Mayor's Court of Calcutta and was British India's highest court from 1774 until 1862, when the High Court of Calcutta was established by the Indian High Courts Act 1861.

From 1774 to the arrival of Parliament's Bengal Judicature Act of 1781 in June 1782, the Court claimed jurisdiction over any person residing in Bengal, Bihar or Orissa. These first years were known for their conflict with the Supreme Council of Bengal over the Court's jurisdiction. The conflict came to an end with Parliament's passing of the Bengal Judicature Act of 1781 which restricted the Supreme Court's jurisdiction to either those who lived in Calcutta, or to any British Subject in Bengal, Bihar and Orissa, thereby removing the Court's jurisdiction over any person residing in Bengal, Bihar and Orissa.

The courthouse itself was a two storied building with Ionic columns and an urn-topped balustrade and stood by the side of the Writers’ Buildings. The building also served as the Town Hall of Calcutta at one time. It was demolished in 1792 and replaced by the present building in 1832.

The Court's first judges were

Chief Justices[edit]

Chief Justice Term Notes
Sir Elijah Impey[2] 16 March 1774–1791 Recalled 1783
Sir Robert Chambers[2] 1791–1 Aug 1798 previously Acting Chief Justice 1783–1791
Sir John Anstruther, Bt[2] 1798–22 Feb 1806
Sir Henry Russell[2] 1807–9 Nov 1813
Sir Edward Hyde East[2] 1813–July 1822
Sir Robert Henry Blosset[2] 1822–1 Feb 1823 (died in office)
Sir Christopher Puller[2] 1823–26 May 1824 (died in office)
Sir Charles Grey[2] 1825–1832
Sir William O. Russell 22 Feb 1832–1833 (died in office)
Sir Edward Ryan 1833–1842
Sir Lawrence Peel 1842–1855
Sir James William Colvile 1855–1859
Sir Barnes Peacock 1859–1862 afterwards Chief Justice of the High Court of Calcutta

Puisne Justices[edit]

Puisne Justices Term Notes
Stephen Caesar Le Maistre 22 October 1774–4 Nov 1777 Died
John Hyde[2] 22 October 1774–8 July 1796 Died
William Jones[2] 22 Oct 1783–27 Apr 1791 Died
William Dunkin[2] 3 Sept 1791–1 Aug 1797 Resigned
James Watson[2] 1 Mar 1796–2 May 1796 Died
John Royds[2] 23 Oct 1797–26 Sept 1816 Died
William Burroughs[2] 3 Nov 1806–20 Dec 1815 Resigned
Francis Maonaghten[2] 1 Mar 1816–2 Mar 1825 Resigned
Anthony Buller 26 Sept 1816–1 Jan 1827 Resigned
John Franks 6 Oct 1825–15 Mar 1831 Resigned
John Peter Grant[3] 17 Oct 1833–1848
Benjamin Heath Malkin 6 Oct 1835–21 Oct 1837 Died


  1. ^ Curley, Thomas M. (1998). Sir Robert Chambers: Law, Literature, and Empire in the Age of Johnson. University of Wisconsin Press. ISBN 0299151506.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o Auber, Peter. An Analysis of the Constitution of the East-India Company. p. 758.
  3. ^ Stearn, Roger T. (2004). "Grant, Sir John Peter, of Rothiemurchus (1774–1848), politician and judge". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/11273. Retrieved 3 February 2021. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)