UP [Centributed by Mr. W. Wedderburn, C.S., District Judge, Ratnagiri.] to the year 1812, except the fort and factory of Bankot and nine surrounding villages handed over by the Peshwa in 1756,
the British Government had no territory south of the river Apta. The Resident of Bankot, who was also the commandant of the garrison, did not at first enjoy extensive judicial powers. He could only expel persons of a suspicious character under severe penalties, and all offenders were sent for examination and trial before His Majesty's Justices in Bombay. This state of things lasted till, in 1803, the civil and criminal jurisdiction of the Judge and Magistrate of Salsette was extended to Bankot, the court adjourning there for twenty days in each year. In 1811 the Bankot Resident was invested with power to decide civil cases of not more than £10 (Rs. 100), an appeal lying against his decision to the Circuit Judge at Salsette. He was at the same time placed in police charge of the district, and persons committed or held to bail were remanded to Thana to take their trial there. In 1812, when Malvan and the surrounding districts were ceded by Kolhapur, a Resident was appointed with jurisdiction to try civil suits of not more than £50 (Rs. 500), an appeal lying, as in the case of 'Bankot decisions, to Salsette. Owing to the distance of Malvan from Salsette the Resident was, in 1814, invested with increased powers, both civil and criminal, and made to some extent independent of Salsette authority. In 1815 the jurisdiction of both the Residents was further extended. Their decisions in suits above £40 (Rs. 400) were subject to an appeal to the Governor in Council, in the separate department of the chief court of justice, Sadar Adalat. Offenders were no longer sent to Thana for trial. The Circuit Judge
went to Bankot and Malvan to deliver the jails twice a year.
This arrangement continued till 1819, when the whole of the
present Ratnagiri district passed into the hands of the English. In that year the two Residencies were abolished, and the southern Konkan was formed into a separate collectorate with Bankot as its head-quarters. In 1820 Ratnagiri was chosen as the most central and convenient place for the civil station of the district. The powers of Magistrate were modified and transferred from the Judge to the Collector, and the Judge constituted the Criminal, Judge of the district with charge of the head-quarter police. The judicial machinery
consisted of a Judge, a registrar, an assistant registrar, and two native commissioners. In the same year two more native commissioners were added. In 1827, when the territorial limits of the district were re-arranged, the courts of civil and criminal jurisdiction were constituted anew. The staff of native commissioners was increased and the offices of registrar and assistant registrar abolished, and that of assistant judge created in their place. In 1830, when three of its northern sub-divisions were placed under the direct control of the Thana Judge, Ratnagiri was, for purposes of civil and criminal justice, reduced to a detached station of the Thana district, with a senior assistant judge and sessions judge. Ratnagiri remained a detached station under Thana till 1869.
In 1836, the designation of native commissioner was altered to munsif and sadar amin. In 1838, the oldest year for which detailed statistics are available, there were seven courts and 2805 decisions. Twelve years later (1850) there were six courts and 4303 decisions. In 1851, owing to press of work, a Joint Judge was stationed at Ratnagiri for one year. In 1860 there were six courts and 5580 decisions. From 1866 to 1869 a Joint Judge was again appointed, and in 1869 Ratnagiri was made a distinct district, and a Judge and assistant judge permanently stationed there. The staff of judicial functionaries was increased, and in 1870 there were in all nine judges and 6375 decisions. In 1872 an extra assistant judge was appointed for a year, and in 1875 an additional sub-judge was stationed at Dapoli. In 1879 the sub-judge's court at Sangameshvar was removed to Devrukh.