A stern disciplinarian and a God-fearing man, Sher Shah considered maintenance of law and order and protection of life and property of his subjects his sacred moral duty. He often used to say, “Crime and violence prevent the development of prosperity. It behoves kings to be grateful for the favour that Allah has made His people subject to them, and, therefore not to disobey the commandments of Allah.”
Dr J.N. Chaudhuri says: “(Sher Shah) acquired great reputation as a lover of even-handed justice. Even if his relatives or grandees committed any offence, he did not hesitate to punish them in the same manner as he punished an offender belonging to the ordinary strata of the society.
The ascending order of the courts started with the qazi and mir-i-adl in the principal towns and ended at the chief qazi’s chamber in the capital. Presiding over it all was the emperor himself who heard the original as well as appellate cases.
Islamic law was generally administered by the courts and the officers of Sher Shah’s government, but due consideration was made for the law of the land as also the prevailing customs and codes and non-Muslim subjects were treated accordingly. Harsh and severe punishments were the norms; execution in public, hanging, dismembering of limbs, flogging, etc., were punishments.
With a view to bringing down the crime, Sher Shah introduced the principle of holding the local people responsible for local crimes. There was nothing new in it; it was the same as imposition of a punitive tax on the people of the village which had rebelled against the authorities, He said (according to Abbas): “If a muqaddam harbours thieves and robbers unknown to the governor, it is fit he should be punished or even be put to death, that may be a warning to others to abstain from similar acts.”
The point is that before Sher Shah, this principle was applied to the whole population of the village to terrorise them into submission as also to serve as an example to others, By narrowing down the number of people held responsible (or guilty), Sher Shah made it very effective.
As the highest judicial authority in the state, Sher Shah heard the cases and appeals brought before him on every Wednesday in the evening and he dispensed justice without any discrimination between the high and the low, the rich and the poor.