The Impact of the British (1) Law and Administration
THE FOUR hundred years of the Roman occupation of Britain left so little permanent effect that a modern historian was able to assert that 'from the Romans who once ruled Britain, we Britons have inherited practically nothing'. British rule over most of India lasted not for four hundred, but for less than one hundred and fifty years. It nevertheless seems improbable that an Indian historian, fifteen hundred years from now, will brush aside the British period as having left no mark on India. He is perhaps more likely to say that the advanced civilisation of India before the advent of the Western traders, together with the high degree of centralised, governmental efficiency made possible under British rule by modern communications, and the conscious direction of British policy in India towards self-government, made it certain that British rule would have an enduring effect on every aspect of Indian life. Unlike Rome, Britain left the dependent territories of set purpose, because her mission was fulfilled, and in doing so ensured a continuity of policy and administration.
It is perhaps in the sphere of law and administration that the influence of Britain on India has been most spectacular. There has, indeed, been a tendency to give undue credit to Britain for the restoration of law and order--a task which must be regarded by any stable government as elementary--and to overlook certain by-products of that process which distinguished British rule from earlier governmental systems in India. Amongst those by-products was the new concept conveniently described as the rule of law. This doctrine, which binds the Government as much as the subject to justify its action in the Courts, was a typically British contribution to the Indian