THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: "It is a not a four-year-old fight, but one which started half-a-century ago,’’ says advocate K P Jayachandran, Thiruvananthapuram Bar Association president and Chairman of the Joint Action Council for agitation for the High Court Bench when the second phase of agitation completes four years. Kerala is the only major state in India, other than Madhya Pradesh, which does not have a High Court or a High Court Bench in its capital. The history of the demand for the High Court seat is as old as the state of Kerala.
“There is no reason for not allowing a Bench in Thiruvananthapuram when all sections are supporting the cause strongly. It is causing the exchequer dearly,” says Jayachandran.
The State Government, in 2007, had estimated that it was incurring a loss of around Rs 50 crore a year on travelling allowance alone to employees commuting between Thiruvananthapuram and Kochi. Also, it has been pointed out that when the higher officials absent themselves from office for three days to appear in court, it results in piling up of files.
The agitation reached a state where the advocates boycotted courts at Vanchiyoor court complex. It continued for nearly a month, until the then Opposition Leader Oommen Chandy and Shashi Tharoor MP intervened. They promised an amicable settlement.
Then came the idea of establishing a Kerala Administrative Tribunal (KAT) in Thiruvananthapuram as a political compromise, when the Kerala High Court reiterated its earlier stand against establishing any High Court Bench here. The then Law Minister M Vijayakumar supported and advocated the cause. It resulted in the establishment of the KAT in August 2010, with two permanent benches. One at Thiruvananthapuram (Principal Bench) and the other without filing facility at Ernakulam.
But KAT is not the final solution; for it deals only with service cases.
"KAT happened only because of the agitation we started. But we will fight until we get the Bench,’’ says advocate Vallakkadav G Murali, Action committee convenor.
The support by Shashi Tharoor is the biggest hope for the agitators in reaching their goal.