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Shifting of Bombay High Court: Lawyers face music over 'heritage' rant

The Bombay High Court shushed lawyers refusing to move while highlighting that the current building has no space for clerical staff or drinking water facilities

“Don’t just keep saying heritage, heritage. Be ready to move. Look at the problems litigants are facing. There is no place to sit, no drinking water facilities, the clerical staff is surrounded by files,” said the Bombay High Court while slamming the interveners in the Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by one Ahmed Abdi over paucity of space in the current building of the HC.

While the authorities are trying to shift the court to Bandra Government Colony, Jaykar and Jaykar, a law firm, intervened in the matter with an argument to not shift the court from its current address as it’s a heritage building. They also suggested that the court can rather acquire the nearby PWD or MTNL buildings instead of moving.

Senior counsel Janak Dwarkadas, representing the law firm, said the current structure of the high court in Fort was constructed in 1862 and is a heritage structure.

“Last year we reduced the judges’ stage, where we sit, as there was no space to keep files. We are not thinking short term but long term. If we acquire PWD or MTNL buildings, that will be on lease. Which High Court in India functions on leased lands?” questioned the bench of the Bombay High Court comprising Justices Abhay Oka and A A Sayed.

“With great difficulty the state government has agreed to give us this land (20 acre in Bandra Government Colony). Please don’t create hurdles and stop the process. The process is in advance stages,” added Oka. The state will soon be speaking to the Airport Authority of India about the permissible height of the new court building as it will be near the airport. The government wants the structure to be the tallest so it occupies less land.

A few lawyers were also against shifting base as they claim their residences are in South Mumbai and with the shift the office will be farther away from their homes. “Government is giving us land now. If we change our stand again, it will take years for the government to make a decision. Bandra is a central place and government is ready to give lawyers land or offices for chambers,” said Oka.

The court has adjourned the matter till June 30. Also, Advocate general Rohit Dev told the bench that government is in the process of appointing a consultant to study the land requirement of the Bombay High Court.

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