The decades-long demand for setting up a High Court Bench in Thiruvananthapuram is once again in focus with the HC constituting a committee comprising five senior-most judges to conduct a feasibility study for the same.
As per the order issued by Kerala High Court Chief Justice Manjula Chellur, a committee headed by Justice K M Joseph and comprising Justice Thottathil B Radhakrishnan, Justice K T Sankaran, Justice S Siri Jagan and Justice T R Ramchandran Nair will consider the request to set up a High Court Bench in Thiruvananthapuram.
According to highly-placed sources, the panel will examine all aspects relating to the matter and hear the pleas of the Advocates' associations.
Welcoming the decision, Union Minister Shashi Tharoor said it was unusual for a state capital not to have a High Court Bench. Given the large number of cases in which the state is a litigant, the government spends close to `3 crore a year in TA/DA for sending officials to depose in Kochi, leaving their work in Thiruvananthapuram unattended. "In other words, it leads to waste and inefficiency. A Bench in the capital would prove beneficial for the people of the southern districts of the state," Tharoor told 'Express'.
Tharoor said he had taken several steps since 2009, including speaking to three successive Chief Justices of Kerala and four successive Union Law Ministers. He had also introduced a Private Member's Bill to push the issue before Parliament. "But nothing can be done without the state judiciary coming on board," he noted.
"The Central Government has been sympathetic but feels that a final decision requires the concurrence of the Chief Justice of Kerala. When Chief Minister Oommen Chandy and I met Union Minister Kapil Sibal on October 4, he promised to press the Chief Justice for a decision that has been long delayed," he said.
When asked what are the difficulties in implementing the proposal he said, "there seem to be several issues, since the problem is as old as I am! But I would prefer not to ascribe motives to those who have so far opposed this proposal."
Thiruvananthapuram Bar Association president and High Court Bench Action Council chairman K P Jayachandran also appreciated the HC decision.
"Thiruvananthapuram had been the seat of the erstwhile Travancore High Court, but after the re-organisation of the states, it was shifted to Ernakulam. So we are demanding reconstitution of the Bench," Jayachandran said.
However, Kerala High Court Advocates' Association president Babu Paul said they will strongly object any move regarding the constitution of an HC bench. "We will submit our grievances before the committee when we there is an opportunity. A bench in the state capital will not serve any purpose," Paul said.