When we say the word ‘Sheriff’, there is a stereotypical image that comes to mind – That of someone in police uniform with a big badge on it and a walkie-talkie in hand with a revolver at his/her side, going about their busy schedule, investigating cases, etc.
This romanticized idea of a Sheriff bestowed upon us by western cinematic visuals left us overtly happy when we came to know that we have a sheriff right here in Kolkata too. Yes, you read that right!
Kolkata is the only city in India to have a Sheriff! (Apart from Mumbai) How cool is that?
However, our Sheriff is very different from the ones we fancy.
Calcutta had always been a hot spot during the days of the Raaj and no matter how much we repelled them, there is no denying that we are on a long hangover even today. Look at our colonial structures or heritage for that matter and you will realize that the post of the Sheriff is an icing on the big proof cake.
While Mumbai and Kolkata are the only cities in India to maintain the post of a Sheriff, in earlier times, even Madras had a Sheriff.
Mr Samir Ghoshal, Deputy Sheriff of Kolkata
Know more about the Sheriff:
The Sheriff of Kolkata, a legacy of the British Raaj, is an apolitical titular position of authority. He/she has tenure of one year starting from January 1st- December 31st of the same year.
Only prominent citizens of Kolkata are selected for this post. In order of precedence, the Sheriff ranks just below the Mayor.
The Sheriff has an office and staff but does not have executive powers.
In Kolkata, the Sheriff is a largely an ornamental position. He has a separate office in Calcutta High Court. The present office of the Sheriff is standing strong since 1774.
Appointed by the governor, a sheriff enjoys several statutory and magisterial powers and is an arm of the high court. The Sheriff presides over various city-related functions and conferences and is in charge of receiving foreign guests of the government.
Appointed under the Calcutta Sheriff’s Act, 1948, and the Calcutta Sheriff Rules, 1950, a Sheriff possesses several statutory powers including arrest in civil suits on court’s orders and imposes prohibitory orders, notices and writs to respondents.
“James Macrabey was the first Sheriff of Kolkata, at that time sheriff had the magisterial power as well as organisation of criminal justice. Today, the post of Sheriff is largely ornamental.” – Samir Ghoshal, Deputy Sheriff of Kolkata.
Our last Sheriff was the renowned Bengali actor Mr. Ranjit Mallick in the year 2014. Since then, we do not have a Sheriff but we have a Deputy Sheriff – Mr. Samir Ghoshal, who is also the acting Sheriff at present until a new Sheriff is selected.
“Before the Raaj took over, we had two subordinate courts (adalats), the concept of which was destroyed with the introduction of the Supreme Court that was set up in colonial India; this is when the post of Sheriff was introduced in the year 1774. As a result, the judicial system also changed”– said Samir Ghoshal.