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merchants of Rangoon, Moulmain, Akyab, and Bassein, who have always wished, as a protection to their vast ocean-going trade, for a court founded on the traditions of England rather than on those of the Punjaub. While Allahabad has long ago been supplied with a High Court, Burma gets none, neither is any reason vouchsafed for this unequal treatment nor time afforded for remonstrance. After twenty years of delay, the Bill is introduced in hot haste, so that it may become law in the present session. Like Macbeth in the play, the mover seems to feel that "if it were done when 'tis done, then 'twere well it were done quickly." There is much in favour of this policy, as he justly brands the existing system of superior courts as temporary, defective, complex, unsatisfactory, complicated," using Latin words to avoid over-statement. The plainer Anglo-Saxon of the Commination Service would better suit the feeling at Rangoon and other marts of trade.
The main point of the Bill is that it erects one single supreme court instead of several, and thus enables the whole judicial work of Lower Burma to be done in the province itself. The Chief Court is to have four or more judges, of whom two at least shall ordinarily be barristers. They will hold office during pleasure, not during good behaviour as in England. Saving the Privy Council, all appeals and revisions end with them, and the whole system of sending the most important matters to the High Court of Calcutta, involving the expense of a second set of solicitors and barristers, will come to an end. While I am writing, the duties of a High Court are shared among the Calcutta tribunal and three superior courts at Rangoon, who are at times aided by judges from two lower courts. The Recorder of Rangoon, a barrister-judge, is a High Court for European British subjects; but his sentences of death must go to be confirmed or reversed at Calcutta. So do appeals from him as an Admiralty Court, from other civil decrees under Rs. 10,000, and from various other orders. The Judicial Commissioner, a civil service judge,
is the High Court for the whole country outside of Rangoon. But when either judge sits as a Court of Session, the prisoner appeals to the same judge, sitting with the other one, in what is called the Special Court, a tribunal which for some purposes is a High Court, and which sometimes comes to a deadlock when the one judge sticks to his first views and his colleague differs. In other matters they may send their opposite opinions to Calcutta, where the judges have to decide between them, even if there is no argument of counsel. To avoid this, another procedure, started in 1889, lets the ruler of the province order the Additional Recorder, if there happens to be one, or if not, the Judge of Moulmain, to sit as a third, so that an inferior judge decides between the two High Courts. The new law will abolish all these impediments to justice. The Chief Court will still be only a court of session for criminals in the town of Rangoon. But as in Calcutta or Bombay, finality is to be given to the judge's sentence. The unwholesome necessity of one high judge pitting his opinion against the other will disappear. The Recorder, the Judicial Commissioner, the Additional Recorder, the Special Court, and the Judge of the Town of Moulmain will vanish from the scene, along with the Calcutta jurisdictions over Lower Burma. The Governor - General in Council takes power to appoint one of the Bench as Chief Judge. Probably the commercial world of Burma would like to restrict his choice to the barrister-judges; but on principle the best man should be chosen, and some weight given to long experience of the duties.
This Bill contains a chapter dealing with the lower hierarchy of courts in the revenue areas of the interior. Of these there will be four-the Divisional, District, Subdivisional, and Township Courts, under the Commissioner, Deputy Commissioner, Assistant, and Myo-ok respectively, very much as at present. It would seem that the Commissioner will still be Sessions Judge and his deputies District Magistrates with Assistant Judges' powers.
is intended to give Additional Judges to the Courts of the Commissioners, to relieve these high officials of civil appeals and get rid of intermediate appeals to the hard-worked Deputies, a policy which has been successful elsewhere. The question under what circumstances appeals should lie has been referred to the Secretary of State. In most respects the Mofussil will remain under practically the same system of rule as was devised in Arakan after the first war and in Pegu after the second, and which still continues. The Bill contains many useful powers to reduce delays and expenses in its working, and of course provisions for pending cases. Outside the seaports the litigation is simple, and the rural and commercial communities are strongly contrasted.
It remains to show briefly the slow advances which Burma has made in judicial institutions within living memory. In 1862 Arakan was under Bengal, and Pegu and Tenasserim were under commissioners quite independent of each other but under the Governor-General. Acting on a report written by Colonel Bruce and Sir Richard Temple, the Government joined the three provinces together under a Chief Commissioner as governor, and disallowed their proposal to have a Barrister Judicial Commissioner over the interior, to sit also as an Original Side Judge at the seaports. The Chief Commissioner was erected into a final court by Act I. of 1863, and continued such till abolished by Act VII. of 1872, which substituted a Judicial Commissioner. The British merchants, who even in 1840 had wanted a Recorder like the one at Penang versed in the lex mercatoria, had to put up with an ordinary officer of the Commission, until on the report of 1862, recorders were provided for Rangoon and Moulmain by Act XXI. of 1863. The same Act brought into these ports the qualified law of England of the year 1726, making them in that respect like the presidency towns, and with this rule of law the present Bill is to make no change, at least in Rangoon. By Act VII. of 1872 the
Special Court was set up, Sir Barrow Ellis remarking that financial difficulties precluded a more perfect tribunal. In the debates we find a fear expressed that if a barrister and a civilian were yoked together as judges they might upset the coach. But this calamity has been avoided, and the present system has lingered till the end of this century. These are results which may fairly be put down to the credit of the judges, who worked for justice, in spite of a bad law, re-enacted time after time, creating and continuing perplexing conditions of judicature, with delays
The most important sections of the Bill are those inserted. below.
CONSTITUTION OF CHIEF COURT.
5. The Chief Court shall consist of four or more judges, who shall be appointed by the Governor-General in Council and shall hold office during his pleasure, and of whom two at least shall ordinarily be barristers of not less than five years' standing.
APPOINTMENT OF CHIEF JUDGE.
6. The Governor-General in Council may, in his discretion, from time to time appoint one of the Judges of the Chief Court to be the Chief Judge, and may, during any vacancy of the office of Chief Judge, and during any absence of the Chief Judge, appoint one of the other Judges of the Chief Court to perform the duties of the Chief Judge until a new Chief Judge has been appointed and has entered upon the discharge of the duties of his office, or until the Chief Judge has returned from such absence, as the case may be.
RANK AND PRECEDENCE OF CHIEF JUDGE AND JUDGES OF CHIEF COURT.
7. (1) The Chief Judge (if any), whether permanent or officiating, shall have rank and precedence before the other Judges of the Chief Court.
(2) Save as aforesaid, the Judges shall have rank and precedence according to the seniority of their appointments as such Judges:
Provided that a Judge permanently appointed shall be deemed to be senior to, and shall have rank and precedence before, an officiating Judge. (3) In the construction of this Act the expression "the Senior Judge " shall mean the Judge for the time being entitled to the first place in rank and precedence.
CIVIL AND CRIMINAL JURISDICTION OF CHIEF Court.
8. The Chief Court shall be the highest Civil Court of appeal, and the highest Court of criminal appeal and revision in and for Lower Burma, and shall
(a) be the High Court for the whole of Burma (inclusive of the Shan States) in reference to proceedings against European British subjects and persons jointly charged with European British subjects;
(b) have power, as a Court of original jurisdiction, to try European British subjects and persons charged jointly with European British subjects, committed to it for trial by any Magistrate and Justice of the Peace exercising jurisdiction in any part of Burma (inclusive of the Shan States);
(c) be the principal Civil Court of original jurisdiction and the Court of Session for the Rangoon Town; and
(d) have within the Rangoon Town such powers and authorities with respect to insolvent debtors and their creditors as are for the time being exercisable by a Court for the Relief of Insolvent Debtors under the Indian Insolvency Act, 1848.
EXERCISE OF JURISDICTION BY JUDGES OF CHIEF Court.
9. (1) Except as otherwise provided by this Act or by any other enactment for the time being in force, and subject to any rules made under this Act, the jurisdiction of the Chief Court may be exercised by a single Judge of the Court.
(2) The Chief Court may, with the sanction of the Local Government, make rules to provide, in such manner as it may think fit, for the exercise of any of its powers by a bench of two or more Judges of the Court.
CONSTITUTION of full Bench and other Benches.
10. (1) The Chief Court may make rules declaring what number of Judges, not being less than three, shall constitute a full bench of the Chief Court, and may by such rules prescribe the mode of determining which Judges shall sit as a full bench when a full-bench sitting becomes
(2) Subject to the provisions of sub-section (1), the Senior Judge of the Chief Court may determine which Judge in each case or classes of cases shall sit alone, and which Judges shall constitute any bench.
POWER TO REFER QUESTION TO FULL BENCH.
11. Any single Judge of the Chief Court and any bench of Judges thereof, not being a full bench, may in any case refer for the decision of a bench of two Judges or of a full bench any question of law or custom having the force of law, or of the construction of any document, or of the admissibility of any evidence, arising before the Judge or bench, and shall dispose of the case in accordance with the decision of the bench to which the question has been referred.
REVIEW IN CERTAIN CRIMINAL CASES.
12. Where in any case any such question as is referred to in Section 11 has been decided by a Judge of the Chief Court exercising the original criminal jurisdiction of the Chief Court as a Court having power to try