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The Fort Williams Act, 1881

The Fort Williams Act has been incorporated on 11th March 1881. This Act authenticates several powers to make rules and regulations for the betterment of the Government in Fort Williams in Bengal and to endow with the establishment of a Court within Fort for conducting legal proceedings against person who is charged for breach of such rules.

The Central Government shall define any words for the purpose of this Act at any number of times by notifications in the Official Gazette, if it deem fit. As “the Fort” an area has been defined under this Act.

The Central Government may sanction any number of rules and regulation made by the Chief Army Staff that is in force within the Fort. This rules are made within the matter specified in the schedule annexed and such other matters related to this Schedule. The Penalties for infringement of these rules shall be provided with fine up to fifty rupees as well as four days of imprisonment. In case if anybody fails to pay such fine shall be penalized with four days of imprisonment.  These rules and Orders are made and were exhibited in the conspicuous places within the Fort.

 The Central Government shall appoint certain commissioned Officers to look after the person who tries to violate or infringe the rules made under this Act and to punish them for their offence as prescribed. These officers are said to be known as Fort Magistrate.

The Fort Magistrate shall follow all and any procedure as that is conferred by this Act as that of the Presidency Magistrate under the Presidency Magistrate Act, 1877 and subject to the power conferred by High Courts Criminal Procedure Act, 1875. Any findings, Orders or sentences of this Fort Magistrate shall be final.

The Central Government may specify any person to arrest such person who is punishable under this Act for violation of any provisions of this Act without any warrant and make such Police Officer to grant bail to the offender. Person arrested should be taken immediately to Police Station in Fort and should be detained till he provides a bond and sureties of not less than one hundred rupees to produce him before the Fort Magistrate at such time specified in the bond.

This Act is absolutely a parallel law in force with that of the other laws in force. It is no way derogative to any laws as it allows such other Acts to proceed with the punishments and rules to follow. But no person should be punished twice or more for the same offence.

There is a special provision on limitation of prosecution which clearly says that no person shall be prosecuted beyond three months from the date of commencement of the offence. Validation of penalties hereto has been made by the Amending Act, 1891.

This Act has a schedule mentioning the subject matter with regard to which numerous rules and prosecution could take place through the Chief Army Officer and Fort Magistrate. By seeing the schedule annexed with the Act it clearly shows that a mini Government with great public interest for the public has made such a list annexed with this Act.

This Particular Act has not been repealed. The Law Commission in its 148th report has specified that the delegation of powers to the Commissioned Officer to make rules and to punish any person who violates the rules is contrary to the general scheme of our Constitution and it is against of our Directive Principals of State Policies as it separates Judiciary from Executives. Here the Police Officers are given illegitimate powers to keep the detenue in Station for unlimited period till he signs the bond in specified format. The said Commission also recommended by giving an opinion saying that this Act has to be examined by the Competent Authorities and should replace several provisions that harmonize with our Constitution. Unless substitution of relevant provision made, repealing of the whole Act will be difficult. In the year 2014 the Central Government also recommended to repeal or amend the obsolete British era Laws including this Act by framing the Repealing and Amending Bill.

by C.Srivenkatesh Prabhu