New High Court complex to come up at govt. colony site in Bandra

Five years after a public interest litigation was filed before the Bombay High Court (HC) seeking a new court building, the State government has come up with a proposal to build a new high court complex in about 59 acres at Bandra (East) at a cost of approximately ₹296.12 crore. The State also wants to have new Benches at Pune and Kolhapur to ease the pressure on the judiciary.

The proposal presented by the State government before the HC aims to provide nearly double the area for the Chief Justice’s courtroom as compared to the present one in the main HC premises in south Mumbai, a judges’ library, a guest house and an auditorium for judges.

The complex will have 75 courtrooms, 100 chambers for judges, a recreational area and servants’ quarters for judges, waiting area for litigants, and residential premises for officers which is not there in the current building. The area proposed for the main building is 1,050,244 sq.ft., double the current 4,66,929 sq.ft., while that for the bar associations will be more than double: 1,00,273 sq.ft. versus the current 34,243 sq.ft.

The space

As per the Public Works Department’s (PWD) concept note, the government housing colony in Bandra (East) was developed in 1955 and comprises 370 buildings, mostly chawl-type housing, with around 5,000 residential quarters. Although occupied by government employees, the buildings are now in a dilapidated state and are no longer safe.

A senior official from the Law and Judiciary Department told The Hindu , on condition of anonymity, “There are 2,100 quarters in five buildings in a dilapidated condition which will be demolished and the space will be used for the new high court building. Three new buildings will be built for the current residents. The construction cost is estimated at ₹296.12 crore.”

The official said, “A surplus of ₹ 452 crore can be generated. The project is viable and the State can generate a soft loan from the Korean government for this redevelopment.” He also said there was ample land in Nagpur to shift the principal Bench, and there could be new Benches at Pune and Kolhapur as well.

To build or not to build

Opinion on the proposal is mixed. Retired HC judge Abhay Thipsay said there is a dire need for a spacious new building for lawyers and litigants. The new building should be like the Lucknow HC, which has the space, he said. “We hold sentiment for the current historical structure, but the chamber of judges has to be at least 350 sq.ft. Some judges sit in rooms smaller than that, while other courtrooms are small because they were meant to be administrative offices.”

Senior counsel Janak Dwarkadas, however, did not think the shift would benefit litigants, as the current HC building is located at “a vantage place, the fountainhead of the Western, Central and Harbour railway systems.”

If it is moved to the suburbs, “there will be no proper east and west corridor, and that would cause inconvenience to a whole lot of litigants and lawyers,” he said. Instead, existing infrastructure could be improved, like providing a canteen, toilets and waiting areas.

Still others believe that while there is a requirement for space, the government has to open up its purse strings. Retired Justice V.M. Kanade of the HC said, the current building is more than 150 years old, and some portions have caved in. It was meant to have only seven judges, while there is a need for at least 50. “Some lawyers will face a lot of problem to shift to Bandra. The government needs to spend money. Lucknow HC was built after spending ₹1,200 crore.”

Senior counsel Iqbal Chagla said, “There is a requirement for it, but there are ways of doing it. I don’t think the PWD is the body to do it. You (the government) have to spend the money.”

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Printable version | Mar 11, 2022 5:50:40 am |