Context: The Union Territory of Puducherry aspires to have a separate high court for itself.
Background of demand of separate high court
- In 1962, when Puducherry was merged with India, the jurisdiction of the Madras High Court was extended to it.
- In April 2017, the Pondicherry Bar Association had also passed a resolution seeking the establishment of the High Court.
- In 2017, the legislature of Puducherry unanimously resolved to have its own High Court, and the Madras High Court was also informed regarding this.
- In 2019, Chief Minister of Puducherry had said that “a Bench of the Madras High Court at Puducherry on the lines of the one set up in Madurai” was a felt need and sought the support of judges of the Supreme Court.
Reasons for need of such establishment
- Exorbitant sums of money paid for the expenses of the larger court
- The Puducherry government currently spends exorbitant sums of money towards expenses of the larger Madras High Court.
- With not much of a population, this amount can be reduced to less than a quarter of the amount spent with a much smaller High Court for Puducherry.
Constitutional provisions regarding administrative expenses of common court
- 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.
- However, this provision is not followed with respect to Puducherry which shares the disproportionately exorbitant expenses with Tamil Nadu.
- Also, administrative expenses of a High Court at the Union Territory shall be drawn from the ‘Consolidated Fund of India’ under the Constitution.
- Ensuring quick action on pendency of matters
- A Puducherry High Court, with four to five judges, can ensure quick action on pendency of matters.
Increasing ratio of judges strength to population
- India Judges Association And Others vs Union Of India (Uoi) And Ors
- The Supreme Court here observed that the “time has now come for protecting the judicial system, by directing increase in the Judge strength from the existing ratio of 10.5 or 13 per 10 lakhs people to 50 Judges for 10 lakh people.
- The issue was also discussed in the Law Commission of India Report titled ‘Arrears and Backlog: Creating Additional Judicial (wo)manpower’, in 2014
- However, as of 2016, the ratio is only 12 judges for one million population.
- This ratio at Puducherry can be increased if a separate High Court with four to five judges is established.
- Data comparison with other high courts
- The number of cases filed and disposed of at Puducherry in 2010 is four times higher than the numbers at Sikkim, Manipur and Goa (with High Courts) put together.
- Therefore, the size of the population and territory is irrelevant for Puducherry.
- Hardships of travel
- The exercise of safeguarding fundamental rights involves travel, time and expenses.
- Several people often cite that litigants from western districts travel the long distance to Chennai.
- No solution by creating a regional bench
- Even a Bench of the Madras High Court as against a separate High Court at Puducherry is unfavorable. This is because,
- Puducherry will still have to share the expenses of such a large High Court;
- Judges also might not prefer shuttling between Benches at Chennai, Puducherry, and Madurai frequently.
- Constitutional provisions
- The Constitution permits Puducherry to have its own High Court under Article 241.
- The presence of the Constitutional Court in the capital city will also act as a check on the executive and legislature.
Article 241: High Courts for Union territories
- 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.
Would this step be aiding statehood demand?
- The Constitution enabled the establishment of a legislature and Council of Ministers for certain Union Territories with the intent of providing them Statehood gradually.
- Consequently, out of the seven Union Territories originally placed under Article 239A, all except Puducherry were granted Statehood by 1989.
- However, most Union Territories under 239A at least had Benches of High Courts when they attained Statehood.
- In March 2016, the central government had suggested that the establishment of a High Court will be taken up if the Puducherry government proposes the idea.
- However, the decision of the Puducherry legislature has still not been conveyed to the Central government.
- The Puducherry government needs to form a committee to prepare a comprehensive report and a draft Bill backing its proposal and forward it to the Central government.
Image Source: TH