Madurai Bench can also hear PIL petitions relating to pan-State matters, rules Madras High Court

First Division Bench led by Chief Justice Sanjay V. Gangapurwala allows a review filed by MMBA and recalls a paragraph from a 2021 order passed by then then Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee

Updated - April 03, 2024 03:09 pm IST

Published - April 03, 2024 02:41 pm IST - CHENNAI

A view of the Madras High Court. File

A view of the Madras High Court. File | Photo Credit: K. Pichumani

The Madurai Bench of Madras High Court Bar Association (MMBA) has succeeded in restoring the right of the Bench to hear all kinds of public interest litigation (PIL) petitions including those that concern issues related to the entire State, and not just the 13 districts under its territorial jurisdiction.

The First Division Bench of Chief Justice Sanjay V. Gangapurwala and Justice R. Hemalatha allowed a revision petition filed by MMBA, and recalled a particular paragraph alone from a judicial order passed by the previous first Bench during former Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee’s tenure on March 4, 2021.

The Division Bench led by Chief Justice Gangapurwala agreed with senior counsel M. Ajmal Khan, representing MMBA, that it would not be appropriate to say that PILs relating to pan-State matters must be heard only at the principal seat of the High Court in Chennai and not at its Madurai Bench.

While disposing of a PIL petition to safeguard the interests of temples all over the State, former Chief Justice Banerjee had written: “While it is appropriate to institute PILs pertaining to the districts covered by the Madurai Bench, when pan-State matters are the subject matter of any litigation, including PILs, they should be carried to the principal seat of the court.”

Finding force in the request made by MMBA to recall the observation, the Bench led by Chief Justice Gangapurwala said, the presidential notification issued in 2004 for the constitution of the Madurai Bench had not imposed any such restriction.

It was also recalled that when a controversy arose over the cases to be heard in the principal seat of the High Court and the Madurai bench, a Full Bench (comprising three judges) of the High Court had delivered a decisive verdict on the issue in B. Stalin versus Registrar in 2012.

The Full Bench too, had not imposed any restriction on the nature of PILs that could be filed and heard by the Madurai Bench though it recognised the power of the Chief Justice to transfer any case from from the principal seat to the Madurai Bench and vice-versa.

Therefore, “to restrict the pan-State matters only at the principal seat would not be appropriate in view of the notification constituting the Bench at Madurai,” the Bench said while allowing the review petition.

It went on to state: “If the Chief Justice feels that a particular case, instead of being heard at Madurai, is to be heard at Chennai, the same can be transferred at any point of time. However, blanket order that when pan-State matters are subject matter of litigation, the same should be filed only at principal seat would not be appropriate for the functioning of the Bench at Madurai.”

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