The grand vizier (sadr-azam), who is nominated by the sultan, presides ex officio over the privy council (mejliss-i-khass), which, besides the Sheikh-ul-Islam, comprises the ministers of home and foreign affairs, war, finance, marine, commerce and public works, justice, public instruction and " pious foundations " (evkaf), with the grand master of ordnance and the president of the council of state.
The latter is known as the sadr or central distillery system.
It was he who first entrusted criminal jurisdiction to Europeans, and established the Nizamat Sadr Adalat, or appellate court of criminal judicature, at Calcutta; and it was he who separated the functions of collector and judge.
Until 1906 the shah was assisted in the task of government by the sadr azam (grand vizir), a number of vizirs, ministers or heads of departments somewhat on European lines, and a grand council of state, composed of some ministers and other members nominated by the shah himself as occasion required.
Formerly all cases, civil and criminal, were referred to the clergy, and until the 17th century the clergy were subordinate to a kind of chief pontiff, named sadr-us-sodur, who possessed a very extended jurisdiction, nominated the judges, and managed all the religious endowments of the mosques, colleges, shrines, &c. Shah Safi (1629-1642), in order to diminish the influence of the clergy, appointed two such pontiffs, one for the court and nobility the other for the people.