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Nanda Kumar, Maharaja


Nanda Kumar, Maharaja a titled member of the Mughal aristocracy, faujdar of Hugli at the time of the battle of palashi and later a diwan of Nawab mir jafar and one of the four top naibs immediately after the acquisition of the diwani by the company and hanged for forgery allegedly at the instigation of warren hastings. Raja Nanda Kumar is a famous name in the Anglo-Indian historical literature. Warren Hastings detested him long before he became the governor. It was well known to fort william people that Nanda Kumar, a confidant of Mir Jafar, motivated the hard-pressed nawab to make secret contact with other powers inimical to the company. That circumstance had cost Mir Jafar his throne and Nanda Kumar his credibility with the new rulers.

Under the regulating act (1773) the governor general had to take decision according to majority view of the Council members. Unfortunately, three out of four members were against Hastings. In his struggle with his hostile Council members (Clavering Francis and Monson) Hastings faced many awkward situations because of Raja Nanda Kumar who always served his opponents with the details of his corruption. It was Nanda Kumar who revealed to the hostile Council members the bribes that Hastings took from munni begum and several leading zamindars. The proceedings of the majority highlighting the bribes were duly sent to the court of directors.

Beveridge, who made a study on Nanda Kumar's trial, suggests that Hastings, out of his unusual spite for Nanda Kumar, had been on the look out for an opportunity to inflict on the 'vermin' a punishment that he deserved. Hastings was preparing papers to prosecute Nanda Kumar for conspiracy. Before this had gone far, one Mohan Prashad charged him with forgery in a will executed four years before the establishment of the Supreme Court. Nanda Kumar was tried before the Supreme Court, found guilty, and hanged on 6 May 1775. The raja, who was a Brahmin aristocrat having a long record of closeness to power under the nawabs and under the British, was not strongly defended by the Councillors in serving whom he suffered the 'judicial murder'. The Supreme Court had formerly tried a man for forgery and passed a death sentence on him. The man, however, was later acquitted on the ground that forgery was not a capital offence under the Indian laws and that he was not a British subject. But this precedent was not followed in the case of Nanda Kumar, because the Chief Justice elijah impey was said to have been then in a hanging mood.

Most scholars who wrote on the episode suspect that Hastings had arranged this judicial murder with the help of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Sir Elizah Impey who was his school friend at Westminster School and who wanted to help his friend, Hastings, by eliminating his enemy. Impey, according to Macaulay Babington macaulay, was cruel and a man of disrepute. Macaulay's judgment of Impey coincides with that of Lord cornwallis, who wrote several letters to the Chairman of the board of control about Impey's venal mind, partiality, baseness and dishonesty. However, Hastings' direct instigation to Impey, has not yet been proved decidedly, though the allegation is still very general. [Sirajul Islam]