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ADMINISTRATION OF JUSTICE.
lages, which were under my care, gave me constant and anxious employment.
I dedicated one day in the week, and more when necessary, to the administration of justice, in which I was assisted by four principal Brahmins; the cazee, and three Mahomedans, conversant in the laws of the Koran; with some respectable merchants, and the heads of other castes. These persons advised me in doubtful cases, and especially on points relating to the religious ceremonies and customs of the Hindoos. The carpet of justice was spread in the large open hall of the durbar, where the arbitrators assembled: there I always attended, and, agreeably to ancient custom, referred the decision to a panchaut, or jury of five persons; two were chosen by the plaintiff, two by the defendant, and the fifth by myself, from among these elders. I had, by this means, the satisfaction of pleasing a hundred thousand inhabitants; who only made one appeal to the superior courts at Baroche or Bombay.
I was delighted with the simplicity of this mode of proceeding. From having been an alderman and sheriff at Bombay, and for some years worn the black gown as a pleader in the courts of justice at that presidency, I was not entirely unacquainted with English law: but had I equalled Blackstone in knowledge of British jurisprudence, it would have availed little among a people completely attached to their own customs, and influenced by the prejudices of caste. I was therefore bappy to accommodate myself to their usages. I believe I may truly say, that not a present was ever made to an individual belonging to the adawlet; nor was a court-fee under any description ever exacted.
ADMINISTRATION OF JUSTICE.
In the inner court of the durbar, immediately fronting the open side of the hall of justice, was a sacred pepal-tree, and in an adjoining square a noble baniantree. These places were esteemed holy while Dhuboy continued under the Peshwa government of Poonah, and a Brahmin pundit resided at the durbar ; on becoming the abode of an Englishman, although the building lost its reputed sanctity, the trees still retained their claim to veneration : they afforded a sort of sacred shade to the Hindoos who were summoned to the adawlet, and proved at least a useful shelter to other castes.
Under their sacred shade the ordeal trials were performed; the Hindoo witnesses examined ; and the criminals were allowed a solemn pause, while waiting for their trial; a pause, perhaps, doubly solemn and impressive, from standing under the immediate emblem of the godhead.
I generally kept minutes of the causes which came before me, in case of reference or appeal. They were often trifling, sometimes ludicrous. I shall insert two or three which occurred in the same morning, as characteristic of the singular situation in which I was placed.
A certain blind man, well known in Dhuboy, died during my residence there. Although deprived of one sense, he seemed to enjoy the others in greater perfection ; among various talents he could generally discover hidden treasure, whether buried in the earth, or concealed under water, and possessed the faculty of diving and continuing a long time in that clement without inconvenience. As he never commenced a search without stipulating for one-third of the value
ADMINISTRATION OF JUSTICE.
restored, he had, by this occupation, maintained an aged father, a wife, and several children. The old man complained, that several persons for whom his son had found money, refused to make good their promise; and particularly a goldsmith, who on being summoned before the court, acknowledged the truth of the story, but thought a third part of the amount too large a proportion. The goldsmith had reprimanded his wife for misconduct: being a woman of spirit, she took the first opportunity of his absence to collect as much of his money and valuables as possible, and throw them, together with herself and her own jewels and ornaments, into a well. As they had not lived very happily together, the goldsmith on his return was not much concerned about his wife, but regretting the loss of his treasure he made diligent search for her body, which was found in an adjoining well, divested of all her ornaments. Surprised and disappointed, he knew not what further to do, when a confidential friend of his wife told him the deceased had taken off her gold chains and jewels, and tying them up in a bag with his own valuables, threw them into another well, but where it was she knew not; having alleged two reasons for her conduct, that he might lose his property, and be deprived of the means of procuring another wife, which he would find difficult without the jewels. The blind man was sent for, and after a long search, found the bag in a distant well, but could not prevail on the goldsmith to give him his sbare; and since his decease his father had been equally unsuccessful. The court of adawlet decreed hiin one-third of the property.
Next came two respectable Brahmins, a man and his
ADMINISTRATION OF JUSTICE.
wife, of the secular order; who, having no child, had made several religious pilgrimages, performed the accustomed ceremonies to the linga, and consulted the diviners, and recluse devotees, in hopes by their prayers and sacrifices to obtain the desired blessing. A woman skilled in divination promised the wife a son if she would drink a potion composed of the pure essence of jewels. This she consented to, and produced all her pearls, diamonds, and precious stones, which her chemical friend deeming insufficient, persuaded her to borrow more from her relations: these were deposited in a small vase, hermetically sealed, and, with many superstitious ceremonies, placed in a jar of holy water, where it was to remain eight days, without molestation, or the secret being communicated. Two days after this consecration, the woman told the Brahmin's wife she was going to a celebrated temple on the banks of the Nerbudda, to perform some additional ceremonies; if she did not return before the expiration of the time, she might open the vase, and would then discover the jewels under the surface of an essential oil; which she was immediately to swallow, and in due time her wishes would be accomplished. On the appointed day the deluded wife found only an empty vase in the jar of holy water; and learned that her deceiver had fled to a distant country. The unhappy pair now petitioned that I would write to the rajah to deliver the culprit up to justice.
The third in succession was a tandar, or petty officer of a district, who appeared with a banian mer. chant who had plunged into a well, to drown himself ; but having been discovered, timely assistance restored
suspended animation, and he was brought before the court. On being asked his reason for committing this rash action, he coolly replied, that several people owed him considerable sums of money, and would not pay him: whereas he was only indebted to one man, who threatened to imprison him if he did not discharge it; which being unable to do, and unwilling to act with the same cruelty to his debtors, he thought it better to lose his life than his good name, and therefore resolved to leave them all, and enter upon another stage of existence. . This affair was soon compromised to general satisfaction.
Most of the disputes which came before the panchaut at Dhuboy were for infringing the rules of caste, encroachments upon sacred territories, misbehaviour of women, or similar offences ; which were generally settled by the Brahmins. What gave me the greatest trouble and uneasiness, was to prevent, as far as in my power, the suicides frequently committed by young women in a state of pregnancy. A crime generally practised by the higher class of Hindoo widows, who having been married in infancy, and losing their husbands in childhood, were, by the cruel and impolitic laws of Menu, prevented from marrying a second husband, and consequently led into imprudences. Some of these unfortunate females, conscious of bringing disgrace on their family, thus terminated their own existence and that of their unborn infant ; their bodies were often found in the public wells of the city, and villages in the purgunna, but none of the Brahmins in the panchaut, nor any Hindoo officer, took the smallest trouble to prevent these shocking