Thuggee and Dacoity Suppression Acts, 1836–48

Watercolour by the same artist purporting to show three thugs in the process of strangling the traveller: one holds the feet, another the hands, while a third tightens the ligature around the neck.
A sketch by an unknown artist from the early 19th century purporting to show a group of thugs stabbing the eyes of three travellers they have recently strangled, preparatory to further mutilation and deposition in the well.

The Thuggee and Dacoity Suppression Acts, 1836–48 in British India under East India Company rule were a series of legal acts that outlawed thugee—a practice in North and Central India involving robbery and ritualized murder and mutilation on highways—and dacoity, a form of banditry prevalent in the same region, and prescribed punishment for the same.

Title or Description: Provides for the trial and punishment of Thugs. Passed 14 November 1836.[1]

Title or Description: Provides for the trial of persons charged with Thuggee. Passed 7 August 1837.[3]

Title or Description: No person incompetent as a Witness by reason of conviction for any offense. Passed 7 August 1837.[3]

Purpose: This provision rendered individuals previously convicted of a felony allegedly abetted or conspired in by the accused, and thus (under the law of the day) incompetent to testify in any proceeding but for the passage of this Act, to testify against that accused. In practice, the Company or Crown often encouraged such individuals to testify by offering the incentive of reducing the length or severity of their punishment.

Title or description: Provides for trial of persons accused of murder by Thuggee. Passed 15 July 1839.[4]

Title or Description: An Act for the better custody of persons convicted of Thuggee and Dacoity. Passed 9 September 1843.[6]

Title or description: An Act for the better prevention of the crime of Dacoity. Passed 18 November 1843.[8]

Preamble: Whereas it has been considered necessary to adopt more stringent measures for the conviction of professional Dacoits, who belong to certain tribes, systematically employed in carrying on their lawless pursuits in different parts of the country, and for this purpose to extend the provisions of Acts XXX. of 1836, XVIII. of 1837, and XVIII. of 1839, for the prevention of Thuggee, to persons concerned in the perpetration of Dacoity.

Title or description: An Act for regulating the proceedings of the Sudder Courts of Ft. William, Ft. St. George, Bombay, and at Agra in regard to sentences of Transportation for Life. Passed 6 July 1844.[10]

Title or description: An Act to facilitate the execution of the sentences of Courts established by the authority of the Governor-General in Council for the administration of Criminal Justice in States or Territories administered by Officers acting under the authority of the East India Company. Passed: 10 April 1847.[12]

Title or description: An Act for amending Act XXX. of 1836 relating to the trial and punishment of Thugs.[12]
Passed: 19 June 1847.
Enacted by: Governor-General of India, Lord Hardinge, in Council.

Title or description: An Act for removing doubts as to the meaning of the words " Thug" and "Thuggee" and the expression "Murder by Thuggee" when used in the Acts of the Council of India.[15]
Passed: 26 February 1848.
Enacted by: Governor-General of India, Lord Dalhousie, in Council.

Whereas doubts have arisen as to the meaning of the words " Thug" and " Thuggee," and the expression " Murder by Thuggee," when used in the Acts of the Council of India:—

Title or description: An Act for the punishment of wandering Gangs of Thieves and Robbers.[17]
Passed: 20 May 1848.
Enacted by: Governor-General of India, Lord Dalhousie, in Council.

Whereas it is expedient to extend some of the provisions of the Law for the conviction of Thugs and Dacoits to other gangs of Thieves and Robbers, It is enacted, as follows: