As the real founder of the Mughal empire, Akbar immensely improved the organization of the government. There was no curtailment of the abs power or autocracy of the absolute padshah and it was the character of the supreme ruler on which the merits of the administration mainly depended. The power of the wazir was reduced, and his duties were divided among the heads of departments. Akbar "chose, transferred, dismissed his great officials without respect for rank, race or creed.
He created regular departments with written regulations within which officials could freely work without dependence upon the royal whim. He developed an improved system for the assessment and collection of the revenue, with the help of Raja Todar Mai, whole was on the w the ablest and most upright of imperial officers" (V.A. Smith, The Oxford History of India).
The administration, formed on military lines, invested the governor of a province (subahdar/ sipahsalar) with practically full powers so long as he retained office and allowed him to maintain a court like his sovereign. All officials, civil and military ( the roles were interchangeable) were called mansabdars as in Persia, the word meaning officeholder.
They were divided into thirty-three categories, and member of each category was required to supply a certain number of troops to the royal army. The highest mansabs ranging from 7,000 to 10,000 were meant for the princes while the rest varying from 5,000 to 10 were given to others. The standing army was very small; the contingents furnished by the rajas and the mansabdars (each under its own chief) formed the bulk of the imperial forces.
All officers of some importance exercised administrative and judicial powers and dealt with criminal cases. Qazis dispensed civil justice according to Quranic laws.
The Mughal government was called a Kaghzi Raj or paper government, as a large number of books had to be maintained. The emperor was the fountain head of all honours, source of all administrative power and the dispenser of supreme justice, implying that the Mughal emperors did not regard the Khalifa as their formal overlord. But they were not despots as they kept the interest of the people uppermost in their mind.
The Mughal nobility was a heterogeneous body, composed of diverse elements like Turks, Tartars, Persians, and Indians and therefore it could not organise itself as a powerful baronial class. It was further not hereditary but purely official in character.
The entire kingdom was divided into suba or pranta, suba into sarkar, sarkar into pargana and the pargana into villages.
The wazir was the prime minister. All matters concerning revenue were settled by the diwan. He had two assistants known as diwan-i-am or diwan of salaries and the diwan-i-khas (or Khalisa) or diwan of crown-lands. The mir bakshi was the paymaster. He was entrusted with the task of recruiting the army and maintaining the troops in good order.
The khan- i-saman was the lord high steward and was thus in charge of the emperor's department of manufactures, stores and supply. The sadr-us-sudur, also known as sadr-i-kul and sadr-i-jahan, was the link between the king and the people. He acted as the guardian of Islamic law and the spokesman of the ulema. The muhtasib was the censor of public morals.
Sometimes, he was asked to fix the prices of the goods and enforce the use of correct weights and measures. The qazi-ul-quzflt was the chief qazi, that is, the highest judicial officer. The qazis were helped by the muftis. The title of diwan-i-buyutat was given to the officer who registered the wealth and property of the deceased. He also fixed the price of articles, and made provision for the royal karkhanas.
The administrative agency in the provinces (subah) was an exact miniature of that of the central government. The number of provinces varied from time to time. It was 12 during Akbar's time (and 21 during Aurangazeb's). The provincial administration developed by Akbar was based on the principles of 'uniformity' and 'check and balance'. Rights and duties of the provincial officials were distributed in a way which prevented the misuse of offices and promoted interdependence among various officials.
The officials appointed at the provincial level were as follows.
(i) Subahdar or nizam. He was the head of the provincial administration. He was also known as prantapati or sipahsalara or sahib-i-suba. Appointed by the king, subahdar maintained law and order and security of the people and property throughout his province. His other responsibilities included implementation of royal orders and collection of taxes from landlords and subordinate rulers.
(ii) Diwan-i-suba. Appointed by the king on the recommendation of diwan-i-ala, he was responsible for revenue collection in his province. Though he was under the subahdar for the administrative purposes, diwan-i-ala had a direct control over him.
(iii) Provincial bakshi. Appointed by the king on the recommendation of the central mir bakshi, his responsibilities included maintenance of mansabdars and fixing of recruitment pay of soldiers. He sent reports to the king from time to time about the working of the mansabdars. As a wakiya nigara, he sent reports to the king on the incidents of the province.
(iv) Sadr. At the provincial level, sadr also worked as qazi. Appointed by the king on the recommendation of sadr-us-sadr, he, as a sadr, watched the religious activities of Muslims. As a qazi, he performed judicial functions.
Besides these officials, kotwal, wakiya navis, muhtasib, mir-fahr, etc. were appointed at the provincial level.
The Mughal sarkars were equivalent to modern- day districts. Many officials were appointed at this level of administration. Important among them were the following.
(i) Fauzdar. He was responsible for maintaining law and order.
(ii) Amalgtijar Amalgujars. were appointed for collecting revenue and looking after other financial matters.
(iii) Kotwal. Appointed by the king on the recommendation of the Mir-Atish, his main function was to punish the criminals. He also informed the centre about all the happenings within a sarkar.
Following officers were appointed at the pargana level.
(i) Shiqdar. Shiqdar was responsible for maintaining law and order at the pargana level and informing the state government about the same. He helped the amil in revenue collection. He was also entitled to punish criminals.
(ii) Amil. Also known as munsif, amil determined revenue at the pargana level. He established direct contact with the peasants for collecting revenue.
(iii) Kanungo. He was responsible for surveying land in pargana.
(iv) Qazi Qazis. were appointed at the pargana level to perform judicial function. They were under the provincial qazi.
Each village had a pradhan, who was also known as muqqudam, khot, choudhury, etc. The pradhan was assisted by a patwari. His main works included maintaining law and order at the village level and assisting amalgujars in collection of revenue from the peasants.
The Mughal judicial system was based on the principle of the Arab jurisprudence. Defending upon their nature, the cases were heard at different levels. The qazi-ul-quzftt, the chief judicial officer, was assisted by mufti, who would be a scholar of the Arab jurisprudence. In the Mughal period, judicial cases were classified into the following four categories: (i) religious cases, (ii) diwani cases, (iii) fauzdari, and (iv) goods-related cases. Religious cases were dealt with by the office of the qazi and were related with the interpretation of Shariat. Diwani cases were also neard by the qazi. Criminal cases were dealt with by the subahdar, fauzdar and shiqdar. These officials had their own courts. Cases related to goods were heard in the courts of amil. It is clear that the qazi heard only diwani and religious cases.