The demand gained momentum last year (March 2022) when the former CM Uddhav Thackeray had written a letter to the then Chief Justice of the Bombay High Court, giving a ray of hope to advocates and litigants
Solicitor Stuti Galiya
The demand by the Kolhapur Bar Association to establish a circuit bench of the Bombay High Court in Kolhapur has once again faced a setback, leaving litigants and practising advocates from six districts of Maharashtra in a difficult situation. Surprisingly, the association has been making this demand for the past thirty-five years, but the request has not been fulfilled until now.
Interestingly, the much-desired demand for a circuit bench of the Bombay High Court in Kolhapur gained momentum last year (March 2022) when the former Chief Minister of the state, Uddhav Thackeray, wrote a letter to the then Chief Justice of the Bombay High Court, Dipankar Datta. This development brought hope to both litigants and practising advocates in Kolhapur.
mid-day published an article on March 19, 2022, titled “Need a Bombay HC bench at Kolhapur, lawyers demand,” highlighting the letter written by then CM Uddhav. Advocate Girish Khadake, president of the Kolhapur District Bar Association, stated this demand has had a significant impact on over eight thousand practising advocates and numerous litigants in the six districts of Kolhapur, Sangli, Satara, Solapur, Ratnagiri, and Sindhudurg.
Currently, litigants and advocates from these districts have to travel to the Bombay High Court in Mumbai, which is located 300 to 500 kilometres away. Approximately 25 per cent of the cases in the Bombay High Court originate from the Kolhapur region. Advocates and litigants have to spend two to three days arranging for lodging and boarding in Mumbai, which further adds to the inconvenience and expenses.
Overall, the longstanding demand for a circuit bench in Kolhapur aims to address the challenges faced by litigants and advocates in accessing justice and reducing the burden on the Bombay High Court.
In response to their written representation dated July 16, 2022, the then Honorable Chief Justice Dipankar Datta, in his response/order dated July 19, 2022, stated, “It may be informed that no meeting with the Chief Minister could be held after June 21, 2022. Any decision on the demand can be taken only after such a meeting and not before.”
When asked to elaborate, Advocate Khadake said, “The decision on setting up the circuit bench of the High Court in Kolhapur can only be made after a prior meeting between the Chief Minister and the Chief Justice of the Bombay High Court, and not otherwise.”
Unfortunately, the circumstances in Maharashtra changed completely at both the political and judiciary levels. The Uddhav Thackeray government collapsed, a new chief minister and government came into power, and CJI Datta was elevated to the Supreme Court. Since then, Maharashtra has had only an acting CJI.
Acres of land reserved
Regarding the preference for a circuit bench over a permanent bench, Khadake explained, “A circuit bench (also known as circuit court) is a temporary court that holds proceedings for a select few months in a year, and the Chief Justice of the Bombay High Court has the power to start such a circuit bench promptly. Moreover, once a circuit bench begins operation, it can be converted into a permanent bench in the future. The Kolhapur Municipal Corporation has also reserved 27 acres of land for the construction of a new Bombay High Court bench.”
What Mumbai advocates say
The advocates in Mumbai have expressed support for the idea of establishing a circuit bench of the High Court in Kolhapur. Solicitor Stuti Galiya said, “The proposal to set up a circuit bench of the Bombay High Court in Kolhapur has been pending for over 35 years. It is important that a decision is made as soon as possible, as it will help reduce the burden on the High Court.”
Advocate Jamshed Mistry, who practices in the Bombay High Court, stated, “Any procedural aspects necessary for making a constructive decision on this urgent requirement from fellow advocates and litigants in the Kolhapur region should be addressed as soon as possible. Otherwise, the phrase 'justice delayed is justice denied' will become a reality.”
No of years assocn was making the demand