Curtains close on year-long celebrations commemorating 150 years of the Madras High Court
On September 8, the year-long sesquicentennial celebrations of the Madras High Court will draw to a close. Delivering landmark judgments and contributing to the march of law, and setting a role model for other courts, the 150-year-old institution continues to be the last hope for the common man in the State. Lawyers, litigants and laymen, alike, believe it has lived up to people’s expectations.
The rich tradition of the Madras High Court can be traced to its establishment along with the Bombay and Calcutta High Courts on June 26, 1862, by Letters Patent granted by Queen Victoria. Initially, it was established as the Supreme Court of Madras in 1801. After its abolition in 1861, the High Court came into being. The High Court of Judicature at Madras, as it was called, was formally declared open on August 15, 1862.
Call it a happy coincidence, as August 15 came to be of much significance to the people 85 years later. Initially, the High Court was located in a building opposite Beach railway station. Work on constructing the present building, a symbol of architectural excellence, on NSC Bose Road, George Town, began in 1888 and it opened on July 12, 1892.
According to a report of the High Court, when the court was started 150 years ago, there was only a Chief Justice and five puisne judges. Following the enactment of the High Courts Act, 1911, the strength of the court was increased to 20. Given the volume of work and the need for quick disposal of cases, the sanctioned strength went up over the years. It now stands at 60, though the actual strength is only 53.
For the convenience of people in the southern districts, a permanent bench of the High Court was constituted in Madurai on July 24, 2004. The maximum strength of the Madurai Bench is 12. The present premises of the High Court also accommodates the sessions court, family courts, court of small causes and the court under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act. A mediation and conciliation centre also functions in the same campus.
The High Court is not an exception to the universal phenomenon of docket explosion in the country. To clear the arrears, Chief Justice M.Y. Eqbal, who took charge on June 11, 2010, issued a set of circulars which included disposal of cases of senior citizens on a priority basis, and expeditious disposal of cases under the Prevention of Corruption Act.
On the sesquicentennial celebrations, G. Mohanakrishnan, president of Madras High Court Advocates Association, said, “It is the greatest moment in our lives, both for the Bar and the Bench. We are proud to be associated with the momentous occasion.”