Sunday, August 26, 2012

Bombay High Court:150 Glorious Years

The Bombay High Court on an old postcard
In order to celebrate completion of 150 years of the Bombay High Court, a small display has been organized in Court Room No. 46, on the second floor of the main building. Those who practice at Bombay H.C. know very well the significance of C.R. No. 46, for that is where Tilak's Trial had taken place. Tilak's last words in the trial are inscribed on a stane tablet outside the Court Room: 

"Inspite of the verdict of the jury, I still maintain that I am innocent. There are higher powers
that rule the destinies of men and nations; and I think, it may be the will of the providence that this cause I represent may be benefited more by my suffering than by my remaining free."

A letter written in Tilak's hand writing
displayed at the Bombay High Court exhibition
The display will be open to public till the 16th of September, and it is highly recommended that you go see it, if your a lawyer, law student, or anyone who loves history. The display is small and contains inter alia, Mahatma Gandhi's and Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar's application letters for membership in the bar, the Letters Patent the Chief Justice's Mace, the scroll of advocates, wherein all the bar members names are written, old court stamps, old photos of South Mumbai and an old Mignon typewriter which used to be used in Court rooms. (Images are taken from here.)

Old Mignon typewriter which used to be used in Court rooms
On the left one will find the painting of the then Supreme Court Judge,  Sir John Peter Grant. It had once happened that Governor Malcolm addressed a letter to the judges, informing them that he had given orders to the Company’s servants to take no notice of any writs issued by the Supreme Court to the mofussil courts. The Judges declared that the court would not allow any individual, whatever be his rank, to address it in any other way except that as a humblest suitor who applies for its protection. The letter was read in open court and Sir John Peter Grant spoke the immortal words, which are inscribed under his painting:

“Within these walls, we know no equal and no superior but God and the King.”

After that Sir Grant issued a fresh writ, which was again not obeyed. Grant then took the extreme step of going on strike with his staff and locking up the high court for a period of about five months.
Lawyers look at the Letters Patent at the Bombay High Court exhibition

Manmohan Singh had rightly pointed out that the first Indian Chief Justice, Attorney General and the Solicitor General - all were once lawyers who practiced at Bombay High Court, and even today it remains the same (i.e. all these positions are still taken by lawyers who practiced at the Bombay High Court).

(Images of Bombay High Court exhibition are taken from here.)


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