Crime and Punishment in the Mughal Administration (Legal history)

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Offline Talukdar Rasel Mahmud

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A systematic judicial procedure was followed by the courts during the Mughal period. The judicial procedure was regulated by two Muslim Codes namely Fiqh-e-Firoz Shahi and Fatwai-i-Alamgiri. Evidence was classified into three categories- (a) full corroboration; (b) testimony of a single individual; and (c) admission including confession. The court always preferred full corroboration to other classes of evidence. The Muslim criminal law broadly classified crimes under three heads: (i) crimes against God; (ii) crimes against the King; and (iii) crimes against private individual. During the Muslim period trial by ordeal as existed in Hindu period was prohibited. Instead three forms of punishments were executed by the courts under Muslim law for above three types of crimes.
(a)  Hadd (fixed penalties): This is the form of punishment which was prescribed by the cannon law and could not be reduced or modified by human agency. Hadd meant specific punishments for specific offences. It thus provided a fixed punishment as laid down in Sharia for crimes like theft, robbery, whoredom (zinah), apostasy (ijtidad), defamation and drunkenness. It was equally applicable to Muslims and non-Muslims. The state was under a duty to prosecute all those who were guilty under Hadd. “No compensation was granted under it. For instance, stoning to death was prescribed for adultery or drinking wine, cutting off the right hand for theft etc. All offences for which Hadd was prescribed as punishment are characterised as offences against God, in other words, against ‘public justice’.
(b)  Tazir (Discretionary Punishment): This was another form of punishment which meant prohibition and it was applicable to all crimes which were not classified under Hadd. Offences. for which tazir was fixed were all offences against God. It included crimes like gambling, causing injury, minor theft etc. Under Tazir the kind and amount of punishment was left entirely with the judge’s wish; courts were free to even invent new methods oi punishing the criminals e.g. cutting out the tongue, impalement etc. The object was to reform the criminal.
 (c) Qisas (retaliation) and Diya (blood money): Qisas meant, in principle, life for life and limb for limb. Qisas was applied to cases of willful killing and certain types of grave wounding or maiming which were characterisd as offences against human body. Qisas was regarded as the personal right of the victim or his next of kin, to inflict a like injury on the wrong-doer as he had inflicted on his victim. Under Qisas the relatives or successors of the murdered person could excuse the murderer. Qisas became Diya when the next of kin of the victim was satisfied with money as compensation for the price of blood. This also could not be reduced or modified either by the Quazi or the Emperor. In cases where Qisas was available, it could be exchanged with diya or blood money.
Talukdar Rasel Mahmud
Lecturer, Department of Law
Daffodil International University (DIU)
Contact No:+88 01719 479603.