Group of lawyers seek withdrawal of Madras High Court’s circular banning portraits, statues inside court premises

As per the circular, issued on July 7, 2023 by the Registrar General (in-charge) of the Madras High Court, only portraits of Mahatma Gandhi and Tiruvalluvar are permitted within court complexes across T.N.; the issue of portraits/statues of other political leaders being displayed has been considered by the Full Court multiples times, and rejected

July 21, 2023 02:04 pm | Updated 03:14 pm IST - CHENNAI

A view of the Madras High Court

A view of the Madras High Court

A section of lawyers have planned to stage a demonstration outside the Madras High Court campus and the district court campuses across the State on Monday, July 24, 2023, demanding the withdrawal of a circular issued by the High Court administration on July 7, stating that no other statues or portraits, except those of Mahatma Gandhi and poet-saint Tiruvalluvar, should be permitted inside court complexes in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry.

The circular issued by Registrar General (in-charge) M. Jothiraman stated it had been brought to the notice of the High Court Registry that representations were being received from advocates associations from time to time seeking permission to display portraits of B.R. Ambedkar and also of some senior advocates in some district court premises. However, the RG, said, the issue had been considered by the Full Court (a body comprising all judges of the High Court) on multiple occasions.

A resolution passed by the Full Court on October 22, 2008 rejected the request of Tamil Nadu B.R. Ambedkar Advocates Association to install portraits of national leaders in all court halls in the State. Further, on March 11, 2010, the Full Court resolved that henceforth there shall be no more erection of any statue in any of the court premises whether at the principal seat of the High Court in Chennai or its Madurai Bench or in any district or taluk court subordinate to the High Court.

This decision was made after taking into consideration the demands from various quarters to erect the statues of political leaders at different places, including court campuses, and the law and order problems that had erupted due to damage caused to the statutes of national leaders in various places. On April 20, 2011, the Full Court again unanimously resolved to henceforth not permit the installation of any statute in any court premises in Tamil Nadu.

On April 27, 2013, the Full Court reiterated its 2008 resolution and directed the Kancheepuram Principal District Judge to persuade the Alandur Court Lawyers’ Association to remove the portrait of B.R. Ambedkar from the entrance hall at the newly-constructed combined court buildings in Alandur in Chennai. Then, it also rejected the request of the Cuddalore Bar to display the portrait of B.R. Ambedkar in the newly-constituted special court in that district.

Not stopping with that, the Full Court met again on December 8, 2013 and reiterated all the earlier resolutions in the matter of installation of portraits and statutes of any kind inside the court premises within the State of Tamil Nadu. On December 7, 2019 too, the Full Court resolved to decline the request with regard to the display of certain portraits in the courts, and one more resolution was passed on the issue as recently as on April 11, 2023.

In April 2023, the Full Court unanimously resolved that except for statues and portraits of Mahatma Gandhi and Tiruvalluvar, no other portraits and pictures shall be displayed anywhere inside the court premises. “In view of the above resolutions of the honourable Full Court of the Madras High Court, all the Principal District Judges, District Judges, Principal Judge, District Judge-cum-Chief Judicial Magistrates are hereby instructed to strictly adhere to the resolutions,” the circular read.

The R-G (in-charge) also said: “If any deviation is found, the Principal District Judges/District Judges/Principal Judge/District Judge-cum-Chief Judicial Magistrate of the district court concerned and the Chief Judge of Puducherry are directed to take action by giving suitable complaint to the Bar Council of Tamil Nadu and Puducherry. The above instructions shall be followed strictly by all concerned. The receipt of this circular is required to be acknowledged immediately.”

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