The High Court of Judicature at Patna



    Proclamation made by the Governor-General of India on the 22nd March, 1912 the territories of Bihar and Orissa which were formerly subject to and included within the limits of the Presidency of Fort William in Bengal, were promoted to the status of a separate province, and by Letters Patent, dated the 9th February, 1916 the Patna High Court was ushered into existence with Circuit sittings at Cuttack, and form the 26th February, 1916, the date on which the aforesaid Letters Patent was published in the Gazette of India, the High Court of Judicature at Fort William in Bengal ceased to exercise jurisdiction, Civil, Criminal, Admiralty, Matrimonial, Testamentary and Intestate, Enrolment, etc. in all matters in which jurisdiction was given to the High Court of Judicature at Patna. Thus the ancient city of Pataliputra had a High Court of its own in 1916 with Sir Edward Maynard Des Champs Chamier, Kt. Barrister-at-Law as its first Chief Justice and Sarvashri Saiyid Sharfuddin, Barrister-at-Law, Edmund Pelly Chapman, I.C.S., Basant Kumar Mullick, I.C.S., Francis, Reginald Roe, I.C.S, Cecil Atkinson, barrister-at-Law and Jwala Prasad, B.A., LL.B., as Puisne Judges.


    The foundation-stone of the High Court Building was laid on Monday, the 1st December, 1913 by His Excellency the late Viceroy and Governor-General of India, Lord Hardinge of Penshurst, who in the memorable speech on the occasion said:
    “The history which has led to the laying of this foundation-stone is within the knowledge of you all, and I think you will agree that when once it has been determined that Bihar and Orissa should be promoted to the status of a separate province, it would be an administrative anomaly that its people should still have to carry on their litigation at a place beyond its limits where the obvious inconvenience of distance, cost and time are enhanced by the disabilities of a different atmosphere and different vernacular……. I now proceed to lay this stone in full confidence that upon people of this province. I feel assured that within its walls in future days justice will be administered with courage and impartiality to the terror of evil-doers, and to the triumph of every cause which is right and true, so that the High Court of Bihar shall earn a name for sound sense and good law.”


    The Patna High Court building on its completion was formally opened by the same Viceroy in a durbar held for the purpose on Thursday. The 3rd February, 1916. On this occasion Lord Hardinge made the following observations :- “I am about to perform an almost unique duty and one which I do not think has fallen to the lot of any previous Viceroy…. I think when I look at this fine building that the people of this province may congratulate themselves in many ways on their new institution. It will be itself is an emblem of the great, and, perhaps, even weightier, in its decision as between the individual and the State………. With my most earnest wishes that the labour of this Court may be inspired with wisdom, justice and mercy I will now proceed to open the building.” The High Court actually commenced work from the 1st March, 1916. On that day the Hon’ble Judges wore full court dress. They were robed in red gowns, wigs, black knee breeches, black silk stockings and buckled patent leather shoes. Exactly at 10.35 the Judges entered the Chief Justice’s Court room and took their seats on red morocco stuffed armless chairs on the dais. The Registrar of the Court, the Commissioner of the Division, the Commissioner of Excise and Registration and some local high officials took their seat on the dais behind the Judges. The Judges were welcomed on behalf of the Bar by Maulana Mazharul Haq, Barrister-at-Law. The Hon’ble the Chief Justice then announced the establishment of a High Court of Judicature for the province of Bihar and Orissa and the transfer of Jurisdiction Hitherto exercised in the province by the High court of Judicature at Fort William in Bengal to this Court.


    The Patna High Court started its work in 1916 with the Chief Justice and six puisne Judges. In the year 1947, the sanctioned strength of the Court was nine permanent and three additional Judges. Though a separate province for Orissa was created in the year 1937, this High Court exercised jurisdiction over the territories of that province till 26th July, 1948, when a separate High Court was constituted for Orissa. Even after the constitution of the Orissa High Court, the sanctioned strength of Judges for this Court remained the same. In February, 1950, the three posts of Additional Judges were made permanent. The post of the 13th permanent Judge was sanctioned in September, 1952, and that of the 14th permanent Judge in January, 1956. Since then there has been no increase in the sanctioned strength of the permanent Judges of the Court. Four posts of Additional Judges have also been sanctioned from time to time since July, 1957. In November, 1965 there were 14 permanent Judges, including the Chief Justice and three Additional Judges. At present there are 29 permanent Judges including the Chief Justice and 14 Additional Judges. In the year 1916, when the Patna High Court was created, there were 11 judgeships under its control in Bihar and one in Orissa. In the year 1947, there were 13 judgeships in Bihar, Orissa having already been constituted into a separate province with a separate High Court of its own in 1948. The judgeships of Hazaribagh and Palamau were created on 4th April, 1949 and 18th July, 1960 respectively. Formerly, there was only one judgeship for the districts of Manbhum and Singhbhum with headquarters at Purulia. After the transfer of a portion of the district of Manbhum including Purulia to West Bengal, the remaining portion of the Manbhum district, thereafter, known as the district of Dhanbad, and the district of Singhbhum were formed into a new judgeship and sessions Division with effect from the 1st November, 1956 with headquarters at Dhanbad. On 4th February, 1960 a separate judgeship for Singhbhum was created with headquarters at Chaibasa. There are thus 16 judgeships at present as against 17 districts. A separate judgeship for Saharsa has also been sanctioned. With the creation of a separate judgeship for Saharsa the number of judgeship under the control and supervision of the High Court would be increased to 17. On 15th November, 2000 on the bifurcation of the erstwhile State of Bihar, a new State of Jharkhand came in the existence and 13 Judgeships remained with the newly created State of Jharkhand. At present there are altogether 31 Judgeship in the State of Bihar with the creation of Jamui and Sheohar Judgeship in the yrs. 2005 and 2012 respectfully.

    Post Independence

    In 1947 India attained Dominion status. On 26th January, 1950, it became a Republic. India has framed its own Constitution and the Judiciary has been charged with responsibility of protecting the individual rights of liberty and property guaranteed under the Constitution. Problems of complexity and questions of great significance have cropped up before the Court and they have been subject of most searching analysis and debate, and have been solved in many cases in an admirable manner. The jurisdiction and powers of the High Court have been considerably enlarged. Under Article 226 of the Constitution the High Court has been empowered to issue writs, direction or orders in the nature of habeas corpus, mandamus, prohibition, quo warranto and certiorari for the enforcement of any of the rights conferred by Part III of the Constitution and for any other purpose, and, under Article 235 of the Constitution the control over district courts and courts subordinate thereto including the personnel of these courts has also vested in this Court. The scheme of separation of executive and judicial functions was introduced for the first time on 3rd January, 1950 in the districts of Patna and Shahabad. It has since been introduced in all the districts of the State. This scheme is based on the Meredith Committee Report and on the report of Shri Kanhaiya Singh. This scheme envisages that all magistrates and Munsif-Magistrates trying criminal cases should be under the control of the High Court through the Sessions Judges and that the District and the Subdivisional Magistrates should not have anything further to do with a criminal case after it has been transferred for trial to munsif or a Judicial Magistrate.