Impey, Sir Elijah

Sir Elijah Impey

Impey, Sir Elijah (1732-1809) was the first chief justice of the Calcutta Supreme Court, which was established under the regulating act of 1773. Born on 13 June 1732 and educated at Westminister and Trinity College, Cambridge, Sir Elijah Impey made a negative place in Bengal judicial history by presiding at the trial of maharaja nanda kumar who was said to have been hanged judicially in a forgery case at the instance of warren hastings. Hastings suspected that Nanda Kumar prompted the charges of corruption that philip francis brought against him in the Council. Nanda Kumar, as diwan of Nawab nazmuddaula, developed hatred for Hastings who did not deal with the nawab as he deserved.

Elijah Impey was a class-friend of Warren Hastings at Westminster and at Calcutta their relationship got more cordial. It is believed that Hastings was looking for an opportunity to trounce Nanda Kumar. It came when one Mohan Prashad brought a forgery case against the Maharaja. Forgery was a crime carrying capital punishment in England in those days. Historians have suspected the trial that led to Nanda Kumar’s conviction and execution as a judicial murder on three major counts. First, the forgery case against Nanda Kumar was filed four years before the birth of the Supreme Court; second, forgery was an ordinary crime under the Muslim and Hindu laws, and finally, under the Hindu Institutes, a Brahman was never to be executed for a crime he committed allegedly.

His impeachment was unsuccessfully attempted in the House of Commons in 1787. Malculay of conspiring with Hastings to commit a judicial murder accuses him. Sir James Fitzjames Stephen examined the whole question of the trial of Nanda kumar in detail, and he states that the trial was fair and Impey was compatible with his duty. Sir Elija Impey died on October 1, 1809.  [Sirajul Islam]