Madras High Court’s decision to construct new court halls, judges’ chambers hits a roadblock

Lawyers raise objection to haphazard constructions being undertaken on court campus without formulating a comprehensive master plan

Published - May 22, 2024 12:05 am IST - CHENNAI

The Madras High Court’s decision to construct a five-storey building, to house additional court halls and judges’ chambers, near the old Madras Law College’s heritage building, has suffered a roadblock at the eleventh hour with a section of lawyers questioning the haphazard development of the court campus without formulating a comprehensive master plan.

A summer vacation Bench of Justices G.R. Swaminathan and P.B. Balaji held a special sitting on Tuesday to hear a public interest litigation (PIL) petition filed by Senior Advocate T. Mohan against the construction. The urgent hearing was necessitated since Justice M.M. Sundresh of the Supreme Court was slated to lay the foundation stone for the building on Wednesday.

Advocate General P.S. Raman said, Mr. Mohan and also Senior Counsel N.L. Rajah had written to the Building Committee of the High Court raising objections to the construction. The committee chaired by Justice D. Krishnakumar and comprising of Justices R. Subramanian, R. Suresh Kumar and P.D. Audikesavalu met on Monday to discuss the two representations.

The committee also took note of a report submitted by the Public Works Department (PWD) stating that the five-storey building had been planned 11.3 metres (37 feet) away from the old Madras Law College building and therefore, there would not be any damage to the heritage structure. The report further read that state-of-the-art technology would be used for the construction to avoid vibrations.

However, the Building Committee felt that the PWD’s report would not be sufficient and that it would have solicit views from other experts too before taking a final decision. Therefore, it recorded in the minutes of its meeting that the construction activity would be carried out only after a final decision is taken by it in the next meeting, the A-G said and produced the minutes.

The Bench led by Justice Swaminathan said, they would have closed the PIL petition after recording the minutes of the building committee meeting. However, since the petitioner had raised larger issues related to formulating a master plan for development of the court campus, they directed the High Court Registry to list the petition after the conclusion of the summer vacation on June 3.

The Division Bench also agreed with the A-G that the foundation stone laying ceremony could be held as planned on Wednesday since no formal permission from any authority was required for such a ceremony. Apart from the five-storey building, the court administration had also planned to lay the foundation for construction of 10 bungalows for High Court judges at the Greenways Road in Chennai.’

Further, rolling out of the Chief Justice Relief Fund for the employees of the district judiciary was also a part of the ceremony scheduled on Wednesday.

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