Work on interiors to be taken up next; structure will be ready early next year

Nine months after work began on the new museum on the Madras High Court premises, about 70 per cent of the construction work is complete.

Officials of public works department (PWD) will now set in motion interior works including wall panelling, false ceiling, glazed-tiled flooring and airconditioning.

Besides this, work on setting up display cases and arranging illumination of the entire museum complex will also be taken up. Experts from the School of Architecture and Planning, Anna University, have been roped in to provide designs.

“So far, we have completed the basic civil work. We are expecting to complete the entire project, including an auditorium in the same complex, by early next year,” said a PWD official.

The High Court has, in storage, some rare manuscripts, including copies of Mahatma Gandhi’s speech during his maiden visit to the High Court for the annual law dinner meet in 1915, several judgments given by British judges before the formation of the High Court, judges’ uniforms including robes used for more than a century, and objects including wooden pens used for writing judgments during the 1900s. These will go on display at the new museum.

The two-storeyed structure is being built at a cost of Rs. 10 crore. It is being constructed to mark the 150th year of the Madras High Court — one of the three oldest high courts in the country — that was formed in 1862. The other two are the Calcutta and Bombay high courts.

“In fact, Madras High Court is the second high court after Allahabad high court to have a permanent museum on its premises,” said the 80-year-old curator of Madras High Court museum, T. Krishnamoorthi.

Mr. Krishnamoorthi said a small piece of parchment with an imprint of the oath taken by a group of British judges of the Supreme Court of Madras, the first modern judicial system in the country, in 1801, are among the oldest collections.

The existing museum, which is located on the north-eastern side of the High Court, was opened in April 2005 by the then Chief Justice of the High Court, Markandey Katju.

However, the existing museum is cramped with only a handful of collections including busts of the first Indian Judge, Sir T. Muthuswamy Iyer (1878-1895), and the first Indian permanent Chief Justice, P.V. Rajamannar (1948-1961). “We have written to other high courts and also to the London museum to source rare judges’ robes and sheriff robes to exhibit in the new museum,” said Mr. Krishnamoorthi.

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