High Court Of Bombay
The Bombay High Court was inaugurated on 14th August 1862. The High Court had an Original as well as an Appellate Jurisdiction, the former derived from the Supreme Court, and the latter from the Sudder Diwani and Sudder Foujdari Adalats, which were merged with the High Court. With the establishment of the High Court, the Penal Code, the Criminal Procedure Code and Code of Civil Procedure were enacted.
The Letters Patent of the Bombay High Court authorized 15 Judges, but it started with only seven. It is remarkable that, for about 60 years thereafter, the High Court managed to pull on with just seven Judges, although with advancing years, the laws and the litigation multiplied. There were no indications that this limited strength was found inadequate to cope with the work, till about 1919. With the armistice at the termination of the First World War, there was sudden spurt of litigation in the City of Bombay. The number of suits filed on Original Side, which during the War, had dwindled down to about 500 rose to about 7000, and the Prothonotary found it difficult to prepare daily boards for three Judges. It was only then that an additional Judge was demanded and was grudgingly granted. During this crisis, Sir Norman Mcleod, a Chief Justice of exceptional calibre, instead of multiplying Judges preferred to expeditiously dispose suits and appeals.
The Charter of the High Court also made it the supreme and final court of appeal in all cases, civil and criminal, decided by inferior courts, except such as possessed the requisite importance, pecuniary or legal, demanding a further appeal to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council.
Ever since the constitution of the Privy Council as the Court of ultimate appeal from British India by a Statute of 1833, the bulk of its business was from Indian appeals; so much so, that for Indian appeals, a Judge or a lawyer of adequate Indian experience had later to be associated with the Committee. The Bombay High Court was represented on the Judicial Committee by three distinguished judges, and four eminent counsel; Sir Richard Couch, Sir Lawrence Jenkins and Sir John Beaumont, all Chief Justices. The lawyers who practiced in Bombay High Court before they were appointed to the Judicial Committee were Sir Andrew Scoble, Sir George Lowndes, Sir D.F. Mulla and Mr. M.R.Jayakar.
The High Court was first housed in a building in Apollo Street called the Admiralty House where the Recorder’s Court and the Supreme Court held their sittings.
The work on the present building of the High Court was commenced in April 1871 and completed in November 1878. It is situated between the University Building and the Public Work Secretariat and is 562 feet in length by 187 in breadth. Its general height to the east is 90 feet, and the central feature is 178 ½ feet in height. The building, in an early English-Gothic style, was designed by Colonel J.A.Fuller, R.E. and was completed at a cost of Rs. 16,44,528 which was about Rs. 3000, less than the sanctioned estimate. The walls are of rubble and chunam faced with blue basalt roughly dressed. The Judges have two private staircases on the western side of the building in the octagon tower on either side of the porch. The main staircase and entrance for the general public are on the east.
Some architectural features of the present building consist of sculptures in odd nooks and corners of the walls and ceiling on the western corridor, which display sundry heads of wolves and foxes with counsel’s bands round their necks. Outstanding work of the sculptor is seen on the first & second floors depicting a monkey-judge (presumably inspired by the Monkey Judge and the two litigious cats of Aesop’s fables with one eye bandaged and holding unevenly the scales of justice. Legend has it that there was a dispute between the European building contractor and the sub-contractor, who was a Parsi, over the division of spoils. The Parsi brought a suit and lost. As some finishing touches had yet to be done, the disgruntled plaintiff avenged himself upon Law and Justice (both Counsel and Judge) in stone and plaster in the aforesaid manner.
The true symbol of Justice, the stone statue of the Goddess of Justice, is on the battlement on the western front of the High Court building. She is represented with both eyes bandaged and holding the Sword of Justice in one hand and the Scales meticulously even in the other. Opposite her, hands clasped and head bowed, is the Goddess of Mercy.
The last appeal from India was disposed of by the Privy Council on December 15, 1949. Thus came to an end India’s 200 year old connection with the Privy Council. On 26th January 1950, the Federal Court gave way to the Supreme Court of India under the new Constitution of India. (why does the Bombay High Court site need to say this?)
After the reorganisation of the States with effect from 1st November 1956, the territories of the Bombay State and with it the jurisdiction of the High Court were extensively extended.
Benches of the High Court were established at Nagpur and Rajkot to deal with matters arising from Vidharbha and Saurashtra districts respectively. In 1960, on the formation of the State of Gujarat, the Gujarat High Court was established. In 1981, a Bench of the High Court was notified in Aurangabad and the Permanent Bench was established in 1984 by the Order of the President. In accordance with the High Court at Bombay (Extension of Jurisdiction to Goa, Daman and Diu) Act, 1981, the Panaji (Goa) Bench of the High Court for the Union Territory of Goa, Daman and Diu was inaugurated in 1982. Later, when Goa attained statehood in 1987, the High Court came to have jurisdiction over the two States of Maharashtra and Goa and over the Union territories of Dadra and Nagar Haveli, and Daman and Diu., the High Court has at present a sanctioned strength of 94 Judges.
Benches: Nagpur Bench Aurangabad Bench Goa Bench