History- Important places, persons in news

Persons in news: Warren Hastings and his Impeachment Case


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Warren Hastings

Mains level : Read the attached story

Donald Trump’s impeachment trial started in the US Senate. A precedent being discussed is that of the Warren Hastings case — the famous failed attempt by the British Parliament to impeach India’s first governor-general.

Warren Hastings

  • Warren Hastings, the first governor-general of Bengal (and the first de facto Governor-General of India), is considered among the most significant colonial administrators to have ruled India.
  • First as the governor of Bengal (1772-1774) and then as Governor-General (1774-1785), Hastings strengthened British rule in India and made profound changes in administration.
  • Hastings’s conduct while in office was called into question after he returned to Britain in 1785, most prominently by Edmund Burke, the noted British parliamentarian and philosopher.

What was his impeachment case?

  • In 1786, impeachment proceedings were initiated against Hastings, probing his alleged mismanagement, mistreatment of natives, and personal corruption while in India.
  • William Pitt, the then British Prime Minister, first defended Hastings, but then joined the chorus against him.
  • Hastings’s argued that ‘Western’ standards of legality could not be applied in the East.
  • But Burke insisted that under the Law of Nature, people in India were entitled to the same protection as those in Britain.
  • In 1795, however, the House of Lords acquitted Hastings, and the impeachment failed.
  • Burke warned that such a verdict would live in “perpetual infamy”, and the trial gave rise to a wider debate on the role of the East India Company in India.


Warren Hastings and his major works

From 1772, Warren Hastings served as Governor-General of Fort Williams and the regulating act was passed after his arrival.

Important events under his rule :


  • Hastings abolished the Dual System that had been established by Robert Clive. In the Dual System, the company had Diwani rights (rights to collect revenue) and the Nizam or Indian chiefs had the administrative authority.
  • The judicial powers of the Zamindars were abolished. Civil and criminal courts were established. Two appellate courts were established at Calcutta, one for civil (Sadar Diwani Adalat) and one for criminal (Sadar Nizamat Adalat) cases.
  • Hastings abolished the system of dastaks which were misused by company officials and traders earlier.
  • He implemented several reforms in all walks of administration. The Regulating Act 1773 and Pitts India Act, 1784 were important acts passed during his tenure.



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