Friday, February 01, 2013

Macaulay and the Law

Macaulay's legal efforts were perhaps as significant as his educational. When he arrived, he found that Indian law was a jumble of older Islamic laws and fragments of British law. Different laws applied in different cities and different laws applied to different persons. Indians were effectively prevented from pursuing legal action against Europeans by a legal system that afforded the Europeans special privileges. The death penalty applied to many crimes including breaking a tea cup in another persons house, apparently even accidentally.

A couple of his more controversial laws removed press censorship and established legal equality in civil law. The latter especially outraged his compatriots.

He also designed an extremely progressive set of laws for the nation which were long considered a model of concision and simplicity. They were not enacted in his lifetime - mostly due to opposition from his countrymen - but according to Masani, still form the core of Indian law. Despite his progressive inclinations, they left considerable scope for local custom.