From Mullaperiyar to the Madras High Court


Building constructed during Pennycuick’s tenure in PWD

Colonel John Pennycuick, the British engineer-cum-civil servant, is still remembered by many people of the State for changing the course of the Periyar and constructing the Mullaperiyar dam in the 1880s. But what many may not know is his connection with the 125-year-old heritage building of the Madras High Court.

The High Court building was constructed during the tenure of Colonel Pennycuick as the Secretary to Government in the Public Works Department and it was he who handed over the keys of the building on the day of its inauguration on July 12, 1892 to the then Governor of Madras Beilby Baron Wenlock.

Records preserved in the High Court museum reveal that the Governor arrived at the main entrance to the building, on the day of inauguration, under a salute of 17 guns. He was received by Chief Justice Sir Arthur J.H. Collins, one of the most celebrated judges of the court, Justice T. Muthuswamy Iyer, the first Indian judge of the High Court, and many others. Thereafter, the dignitaries went on a procession through the court buildings before arriving at one of the principal courts, where a dais had been prepared for the inaugural function. After the playing of the national anthem and select dignitaries occupying their seats on the dais, Pennycuick offered the key to Wenlock.

House of justice

The Governor, in turn, handed over the the key to Chief Justice Collins and said: “And now, My Lord Chief Justice, I have pleasure in handing you the key as a token that the building has been entrusted to your hands by the Government in full confidence that the administration of justice will be carried on with the ability and integrity that has always marked the Madras High Court.”

In his acceptance speech, the Chief Justice said: “May it please your Excellency, on behalf of the judges of the High Court of Judicature, I accept the charge that Your Excellency, as representing the Queen Empress, has been pleased to entrust to me. “My Lord, so long as this High Court is an independent court with judges who fear no man and who administer the law according to the rules of law, equity and good conscience... I believe it will continue to have and to deserve the confidence of the public.

“I fervently hope that long after you and I have passed away to that undiscovered country, of which we know so little, there may always continue to be found men of ability and courage who will administer the law in these courts without distinction of class, creed or race.”

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Printable version | Jan 25, 2020 5:41:52 AM |

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