BANGALORE: Cyriac Joseph, who was administered the oath of office as Chief Justice of the Karnataka High Court here on January 7, is the first member of the Christian community after Independence to adorn the office. However, contrary to public perception, he is not the first Christian to hold the office as there have been many members of the community who have held the office - some of them as the Chief Judge of the Mysore Chief Court and others when the court was known as the Mysore High Court.
In fact, the last Christian and the last British judge of the then High Court of Mysore to become its Chief Justice was Sir D'Arcy Reilly. He had a long tenure in the High Court and was judge from 1934 and 1943. Incidentally, the first Indian Christian who became the Chief Justice of what was known as the Mysore Chief Court was Sir Thumboo Chetty. This was in the late 1890s. Sir Chetty was an expert on the Hindu law.
Some of the other Christians who headed the High Court (all before Independence) were D.G. Plumer and his son R.B. Plumer, J.W. Best, E.W. Staley, Jones, Sir Stanley Ismay, E.W. Wallace and Sir Leslie Miller. Sir Miller headed the first commission for backward classes.
Till the 1930s, the High Court was called the Mysore Chief Court and it was headed by a Chief Judge. The Court of the Chief Judge, Mysore, was set up in 1880 along with three other courts - the court of district judges, the Bangalore Court of Small Causes and subordinate and munsiff courts. The Bangalore Small Causes Court was abolished in 1881.
In 1884, the Chief Court of Mysore was reconstituted with three judges and it was designated as the highest court of appeal, reference and revision in the State.
It was only in 1930 the court was renamed as the High Court of Mysore and the Chief Judge was renamed as the Chief Justice. During the Independence era, the High Court was headed by Paramashivaiah.
In 1973, the Mysore High Court was renamed as the Karnataka High Court. This is one of the few High Courts to have been renamed after the State of its jurisdiction was renamed. Other High Courts such as the Madras High Court, the Bombay High Court and the Calcutta High Court still continue to use the same name under which they were constituted.
Built by the British, the building now housing the High Court was known as the Attara Kutcheri. It was here (in the hall of the Advocates Association facing the Vidhana Soudha) that meetings during the pre-Independence era of the erstwhile Mysore Assembly were held.
The building housed several departments of the Government and, hence, the name Attara Kutcheri. Later, the High Court began functioning from the building.