23 July, 2020
10 Min Read
Set up a High Court for Puducherry
- The article argues the case for a separate High Court for Puducherry.
- Puducherry was a former French colony. Fifteen years after India gained independence; this small French colony was liberated on August 16, 1962 and merged with India.
- Initially, the jurisdiction of the Madras High Court was extended to it.
- Previously, there have been demands for a separate High Court or at least a Bench of the Madras High Court.
- In 2017, the Puducherry legislature unanimously resolved to have its own High Court. In April 2017, the Pondicherry Bar Association passed a resolution seeking the establishment of the High Court.
- The state administration has also previously stressed the need for a Bench of the Madras High Court at Puducherry on the lines of the one set up in Madurai.
Arguments in favour of a High Court at Puducherry:
- The Puducherry government spends large sums of money towards expenses of the large High Court. Puducherry with not much of a population is having to share disproportionately high expenses with Tamil Nadu.
- This amount can be reduced to less than a quarter of the amount spent with a much smaller High Court for Puducherry.
- According to the Constitution, when a common High Court is established for more than one State, administrative expenses have to be paid only from the consolidated fund of the ‘State’ in which the principal seat of the High Court is situated.
- According to the Constitution, administrative expenses of a High Court at the Union Territory shall be drawn from the ‘Consolidated Fund of India’.
Speedy disposal of cases:
- The judge to population ratio at Puducherry can be increased if a separate High Court with four to five judges is established. This can ensure quick action on the pendency of cases.
- In the All India Judges Association and Others vs Union Of India (UoI) And Ors., the Supreme Court had observed the significance of increasing the judge strength from the existing ratio of 10.5 or 13 per 10 lakh people to 50 judges for 10 lakh people.
- Similar observations were also mentioned in the Law Commission of India Report titled ‘Arrears and Backlog: Creating Additional Judicial (wo) manpower’, in 2014.
- As of 2016, the ratio is only 12 judges for one million population.
Access to justice:
- Given the fact that people from Puducherry have to travel to Chennai for appeals at High Court, this leads to considerable expenses and time requirement. This reduces access to justice for the people.
- A High Court at Puducherry would help make access to justice easier for the people.
Aiding Statehood demand:
- A High Court for Puducherry will strengthen voices seeking Statehood.
- The Constitution enabled the establishment of a legislature and Council of Ministers for certain Union Territories with the intent of providing them Statehood gradually. Out of the seven Union Territories originally placed under Article 239A, all except Puducherry were granted Statehood by 1989.
- Most Union Territories under 239A at least had Benches of High Courts when they attained Statehood. Tripura, Manipur, Meghalaya had Benches of the Gauhati High Court before they got their own High Courts.
- The provisions under the Indian Constitution permit Puducherry to have its own High Court under Article 241.
- High Courts for Union territories are defined under Article 241 of the Constitution of India, which states that Parliament may by law constitute a High Court for a Union territory or declare any court in any such territory to be a High Court for all or any of the purposes of this Constitution.
Check on the executive:
- The presence of the Constitutional Court in the capital city acts as a check on the executive and legislature.
Bench of the High Court v/s separate High Court:
- The popular notion that the establishment of a Bench of High Court is easier and economical as compared to setting up a separate High Court is not true. The article argues that even a bench of the Madras High Court as against a separate High Court at Puducherry is unfavourable based on the following arguments.
- In case of a bench of the Madras High Court, Puducherry will still have to share the expenses of such a large High Court.
- Judges might not prefer shuttling between Benches at Chennai, Puducherry and Madurai frequently.
- There has always been a history of protests against the setting up of a regional bench of existing High Courts. The demand for a Bench of the High Court has always been met with stiff resistance from the Bar practising in the Court having jurisdiction.
- The Puducherry Government could form a committee to prepare a comprehensive report and a draft Bill backing its proposal and forward it to the Central Government.
- The administration can highlight the need to streamline expenses, the case volume and constitutional rights as arguments for a separate High Court.
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