The Bilaspur State was one of the first states of India to separate judiciary from executive. Same was done by Raja Anand Chand in the Middle of the year 1939. Before 1934 Courts of the State were governed by an established code and procedure. After retirement of Diwan in the year 1934, the post of revenue and judicial secretary had been created which also became the joint head of the Revenue and Judicial Department and also supervised a number of other departments. The Court of Collector and District Magistrate was temporarily suspended but was revived in 1935.
Separation of Judiciary from Executive
In the middle of 1939, the Executive and Judicial functions were permanently separated. After separation of judiciary from executive the judicial Secretary became sole in charge of the Judicial Department, all other departments previously under his control were transferred elsewhere. Criminal powers of the Tehsildars were withdrawn. The Courts of the Collector and the District Magistrate were allowed to remain with the same officer as long as the new system did not get firmly established. Different tribunals were appointed to administer the civil laws and dispense justice. Lower Courts were housed in a new building specially constructed for the purpose and furnished adequately with a common retiring room and a library. Minor departments concerned mainly with Courts of law, such as the Nazarat, the record office, the copying agency, etc., remained under the judicial Secretary.
Briefly, in the year 1942-43, the judicial system comprised the following Courts subject to the appellate jurisdiction of the Highest Court i.e. Ijlas-I-Alia or the Ruler:
On the Criminal Side
(i) Court of Sessions Judge, presided over by Pt. Harnam Das, Judicial Secretary, an experienced Judicial Officer of more than forty-years of service in the capacity of a Magistrate and Sub Judge 2nd Class, and a District Magistrate.
(ii) Court of District Magistrate, with Mr. Chanan Shah Brar, M.A. LL.B. as its presiding officer.
(iii) Court of the Magistrate 1st Class, with Thakur Jagat Pal, B.A. LL.B, officiating as its presiding officer.
(iv) Court of the Magistrate 2nd Class, presided over by Mian Achhar Singh, an experienced officer of long standing.
On the Civil Side.
(i) Court of District Judge presided over by Pt. Harnam Das, Judicial Secretary.
(ii) Court of the Sub Judge 1st Class, presided over by Thakur Jagat Pal, B.A. LL.B, who was a successful lawyer of fourteen years standing.
(iii) Court of the Sub Judge 2nd Class, with Mr. Rattan Lal, B.A. LL.B., presiding over it.
The Ruler (Ijlas-I-Alia) had superintendence over every Court and called for regular monthly returns, issued general rules of practice and procedure in them, prescribed books and forms to be used, and settled fees for clerks and petition writers. Legal practitioners were not granted permission by them to practice in the state. In murder case, the accused was allowed the option of engaging a defence counsel Pauperis Causa fees and charges were paid by the State. The petition writers were subject to the control and supervision of the Judicial Secretary and their practice was governed by the rules framed on that behalf.
The Punjab Courts Act was applied mutatis mutandis in the state. Before its enforcement, all appeals from the Court of the Sub Judge 1st Class, irrespective of the value of the law suit, lied with the Court of the District Judge. The District Judge’s Court was the first civil appellate Court and the Ijlas-I-Alia was the final Court of appeal. Both the Courts also exercised original civil jurisdiction. In the Ijlas-I-Alia, miscellaneous applications and oral complaints, under a time-honoured custom, were freely and regularly heard and decided. These formed a considerable part of the civil and criminal work of the Court. In the Court of the District and Sessions Judge, certain classes of matrimonial cases were decided summarily. This was an amenity granted to the people by their custom and usage.
Many reforms were made in the revenue department. The revenue law, and procedure prevalent in the Punjab was extended to Bilaspur. The two existing Tehsil were further sub-divided into Parganas and Zails. There were seven parganas and ten Zails in Tehsil Ghumarwin and five parganas and seven zails in Tehsil Sadar.
The first regular revenue settlement, which gave rise to the present revenue system was carried out in the years 1903-07. At that time customary law relating to land was also compiled in a consolidated form. The second revenue settlement was started during the minority administration in 1930 and completed in 1933.
The Diwan was assisted by the Collector and two Tehsildars, one for each Tehsil. He administered the Revenue Department under the supervision, control and direction of the Ijlas-I-Alia. On the retirement of the Diwan (P.L. Chandu Lal) in 1934, the Court of the Collector was abolished and a revenue and Judicial Secretary appointed instead. In 1936, the Collector’s Court was revived with the appointment of an officer who had received revenue training during the revenue settlement with added powers of a District Magistrate. In 1935, when the State administration was reorganised by the ruler some radical changes were effected for the separation of the executive from the judiciary relieving revenue officers of their criminal powers with a revenue secretary as their head. The District Magistrate and Collector’s Courts had a joint officer presiding over them till such time only till new system get established.
The Ijlas-I-Alia was the final Court of appeal and the highest revenue office. His Highness’s Secretary in the revenue Department was the head of the revenue staff. He was also the presiding officer of the revenue Secretary’s Court for hearing appeals and revision against the collector’s decision. Next in order were the Court of two Tehsildars in charge of each of the two Tehsils. As Revenue Officers, they were also responsible for the inspection of the work of the field staff and verification and correction of their records on the spot. There were fifty patwar circles, each covering about nineteen villages, and on an average, containing 15,500 Khasra numbers. There were five Girdwar Kanungos to supervise their work. There were 1210 headmen of villages, each village having one or more headman. To assist the village administration, 80 posts of Chowkidars were created.
Thereafter, as soon as India attained freedom, the Bilaspur State merged with it, but, remained a separate entity till 12th October, 1948. The Ruler retained State administration with him in the capacity of Chief Commissioner-cum-Administrator of Bilaspur. Thereafter, the leaders of Bilaspur Congress Committee built up a pressure for the removal of Raja Anand Chand as Chief Commissioner-cum-Administrator, Raja Anand Chand resigned from the said post and handed over the charge of the State Administration to Shri Shrichand Chhabra, who was elevated to the rank of Chief Commissioner of the State on 2nd April, 1949. However, Bilaspur still remained a separate entity. Later on, the group of East Punjab Hill States included the State of Bilaspur and it was decided to take over the State separate centrally administered unit on 12th October, 1948. Shri Shrichand Chabra remained a Chief Commissioner from 1949 to 1954. The Central Govt. decided to merge Bilaspur in Himachal Pradesh and same was done in the year 1954 in pursuance of Himachal Pradesh and Bilaspur (New State) Bill No. VII of 1954. The court of Senior Sub Judge-cum-Chief Judicial Magistrate was established at Bilaspur in the year 1954 under the super vision of Sessions Division Mahasu, Sirmour and Bilaspur District with a headquarter at Bharari, Shimla in the building of Kluston Estate. After re-organisation of hill area and after attaining the statehood, the area of Mahasu District was merged in Shimla and Solan Districts. The Sessions Division of Shimla, Kinnaur and Bilaspur was created and thereafter all the appellate work pertaining to Bilaspur District was dealt either at Shimla or at Bilaspur by holding Circuit Court till 1988. Thereafter, separate Court of Additional District & Sessions Judge was created on 26.11.1988 and in the subordinate judiciary, there were Courts of Senior Sub Judge-cum-CJM, Bilaspur and Sub Judge-cum-JMIC, Ghumarwin. However, further three Courts viz. Civil Judge (Jr. Division)-cum-JMIC, Bilaspur, Civil Judge (Jr. Division)-cum-JMIC-II, Ghumarwin and Civil Judge (Jr. Division)-cum-JMIC-III, Ghumarwin were created in the year 1984, 2004 and 2007 respectively. The full-fledged Sessions Division was created in the year of 1993 at Bilaspur and Shri O.P. Sharma was the first District & Sessions Judge of Civil & Sessions Division, Bilaspur.