Strong opposition is mounting against the move to set up circuit benches at Thiruvananthapuram and Kozhikode.
The idea gained strength after Union Minister of State for Human Resources Development Shashi Tharoor intensified his lobbying to get a bench sanctioned at Thiruvananthapuram. In 2009, similar efforts were made by then Law Minister Vijayakumar to set up a bench at Thiruvanthapuram. But it came a cropper following a stiff resistance from lawyers and the citizenry.
Former Supreme Court Judge V.R. Krishna Iyer said the move would only “facilitate some vested interest lobby in Thiruvananthapuram”. He pointed out that the two erstwhile princely states of Travancore and Cochin had agreed thorough a covenant that administrative capital would be Thiruvananthapuram and the judicial capital Kochi. The covenant had worked well and was still regarded as good. “What necessitates a deviation from it? Will the State government agree for a secretarial annex at Kochi or Kozhikode on the same footing? Even the Kerala Administrative Tribunal is not holding a sitting in Kochi despite a High Court directive,” he said.
Babu Paul, President, Kerala High Court Advocates’ Association said that it was part of the political agenda set by Mr. Shashi Tharoor to please some vested interests in his constituency. He pointed out that Mr. Tharoor wanted to take a political mileage out of getting a circuit bench sanctioned in Thiruvanantahpuram. No one would be benefit by the setting up of a Bench outside Kochi. He also pointed out that three full court meetings of the High Court held earlier had rejected the demand for setting up benches outside the seat of the High Court. The association would launch strong agitations if benches were sanctioned, he said
Kerala High Court Senior Advocates’ Association President O.V.Radhakrishnan said setting up a Bench outside the seat of a High Court was not “legally impermissible and has no constitutional sanction”. Article 214 of the Constitution mandates a High Court for each State. Article 130 of the Constitution allowed holding sittings of the Supreme Court Benches in places outside Delhi. However, Article 130 did not empower it to constitute or establish permanent bench/ benches in other place or places.
He said going by the language of Articles 214 and 216 read with Article 366(14) of the Constitution, t it was obvious that the Constitution makers did not intend to provide bench or benches outside the seat of the high courts to preserve and protect its integrity as a court of record, he said.
Senior Lawyer and former President of the Kerala High Court Advocates Association Abraham Vakkanal said the definition of High Court under Art. 366 (14) did not contemplate a Bench of a High Court outside its seat. Therefore, the move was unconstitutional and impermissible in law.
Quoting an apex court observation, he said the sensitive issue should not be decided “on emotional or sentimental or parochial considerations”.
Hiby Eden, Ernakulam MLA said the move was to appease the parochial and regional interests. He said there was no need for circuit benches of the High Court in the state. It would only entail additional financial burden on the state, he said.