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Warren Hastings and his major works "EMPOWER IAS"

In news:

  • Donald Trump’s impeachment trial started in the US Senate. A precedent being discussed is that of the Warren Hastings case — the famous failed attempt by the British Parliament to impeach India’s first governor-general.


About Warren Hastings

  • Warren Hastings (1732 – 1818) became the first Governor of the Presidency of Fort William (Bengal) in 1772 and the first Governor-General of Bengal in 1774 till he resigned in 1785.
  • He started his career as a writer (clerk) in the East India Company at Calcutta in 1750.
  • In 1758, he became the British resident at Murshidabad, the capital of Bengal, after Mir Jafar was installed as the Nawab after the Battle of Plassey.
  • During his term, the second Anglo-Mysore and the first Anglo-Maratha wars were fought.
  • The Regulating Act of 1773 was passed during his term.
  • He supported Sir William Jones in forming the Asiatic Society of Bengal in 1785.


Reforms of Warren Hastings

Abolition of the Dual System

  • Hastings abolished the Dual System that had been established by Robert Clive. In the Dual System, the company had Diwani rights (rights to collect revenue) and the Nizam or
  • The annual tribute paid to the Mughal Emperor was also stopped.


Revenue Reforms

  • For revenue collection, a Board of Revenue was set up at Calcutta.
  • Treasury was moved from Murshidabad to Calcutta. Calcutta became Bengal’s capital in 1772.
  • British collectors were appointed for each district and an Accountant General was also appointed.
  • Unreasonable fines were done away with and restrictions were placed on the raising of rent.


Judicial Reforms

  • The judicial powers of the Zamindars were abolished.
  • Civil and criminal courts were established. Two appellate courts were established at Calcutta, one for civil (Sadar Diwani Adalat) and one for criminal (Sadar Nizamat Adalat) cases.
  • The criminal court was to have an Indian judge.
  • Muslims were to be tried according to their law in the Koran and Hindus, according to Hindu laws. A code of Hindu Law, prepared by Hindu Pandits was translated into English.
  • He also came down heavily on the dacoits in Bengal.


Trade Regulations

  • Hastings abolished the system of dastaks which were misused by company officials and traders earlier.
  • He enforced a uniform tariff of 2.5% for Indian and foreign goods.
  • Private trade by company officials was restricted.


What is the Warren Hastings impeachment case?

  • Warren Hastings, the first governor-general of Bengal (and the first de facto Governor-General of India), is considered among the most significant colonial administrators to have ruled the country. First as the governor of Bengal (1772-1774) and then as Governor-General (1774-1785), Hastings strengthened British rule in the country, and made profound changes in administration.
  • His role in shaping English interests in India notwithstanding, Hastings’s conduct while in office was called into question after he returned to Britain in 1785, most prominently by Edmund Burke, the noted British parliamentarian and philosopher.
  • In 1786, impeachment proceedings were initiated against Hastings, probing his alleged mismanagement, mistreatment of natives, and personal corruption while in India.
  •  William Pitt, the then British Prime Minister, first defended Hastings, but then joined the chorus against him.
  • The impeachment trial began in 1788, with Burke leading the prosecution by the House of Commons before the House of Lords.
  • William Pitt, the then British Prime Minister, first defended Hastings, but then joined the chorus against him.
  • Hastings’s argued that ‘Western’ standards of legality could not be applied in the East.
  • But Burke insisted that under the Law of Nature, people in India were entitled to the same protection as those in Britain.
  • In 1795, however, the House of Lords acquitted Hastings, and the impeachment failed.
  • Burke warned that such a verdict would live in “perpetual infamy”, and the trial gave rise to a wider debate on the role of the East India Company in India.