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The Bombay High Court, Mumbai

Hanging Garden, Mumbai

  The Bombay High Court was inaugurated on 14th August ,1862.  The High Court had an Original as well as an Appellate Jurisdiction the former derived from the Supreme Court, and the latter from the Sudder Diwani and Sudder Foujdari Adalats, which were merged in the High Court.  With the establishment of the High Court the Penal Code, the Criminal Procedure Code  and Code of Civil Procedure were enacted into law.

The Letter Patent of the Bombay High Court authorized 15 Judges, but it started with only 7. It is remarkable that, for about  60 years thereafter, the High Court managed to pull on with just 7 Judges, although with advancing years, the laws and the litigation both multiplied. There were no indications that this limited Bench was found inadequate to cope with the  work, till about 1919. With  the armistice at the termination of the First World War, there was sudden spurt of litigation in the City of Bombay.  The number of  Suites filed on Original Side, which during War had dwindled down to about 500 rose to about 7000, that the Prothonotary found it difficult to prepare daily boards for 3 Judges. It was only then  that an additional Judge was demanded and was grudgingly granted .   Bombay was lucky or unlucky in having at this crisis a Chief  Justice of exceptional caliber, Sir Norman Mcleod, who instead of multiplying  Judges preferred to massacre suits and appeals.

The Charter of the High Court also made it the supreme and final court of appeal in all cases, civil and criminal, decided by inferior courts, except such as possessed the requisite importance, pecuniary or legal, demanding a further appeal to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council.

Ever since the Constitution of the Privy Council as the Court of ultimate appeal from British India by a Statuette of 1833, the bulk of its business was from Indian appeals; so much so that for Indian appeals, a Judge or a lawyer of adequate Indian experience had later to be associated with the Committee.  The Bombay High Court has been represented on the Judicial Committee by three distinguished judges, and four eminent counsel; Sir Richard Couch, Sir Lawrence Jenkins and Sir John Beaumont, all Chief Justices.   The lawyers who practiced in Bombay High Court before they were appointed to the Judicial Committee, were Sir Andrew Scoble, Sir George Lowndes, Sir D.F. Mulla and Mr. M.R.Jayakar.

The judgments of the Privy Council, generally speaking, have been received in India with complete satisfaction; and some of them contain illuminating expositions of Anglo-Indian law, including principles of Hindu and Mahommedan law.  But on one or two occasions, owing to overlooking the relevant section of an Indian statuette, or by a revolutionary construction of a section, their decisions have created some confusion and consternation

All the Charters of the law Courts in India from the Mayor's Court down to the High Court are silent as regards the jurisdiction of the Privy Council over criminal cases in India.

The last appeal from India was disposed of by the Privy Council on December 15, 1949.  Thus came to an end India's 200 years' old connection with the Privy Council on January 26, 1950, the Federal Court gave way to the Supreme Court of India under the new Constitution.  The Supreme Court of India  is the highest Court of the land.  and has been empowered to issued directions, Order of Writs, like the Habeas Corpus, Mandamus, Certiorari, Prohibition for the enforcement of the Fundamental Rights which have been guaranteed by the Constitution of the people of India.  The Supreme Court has thus been made the guardian of the freedom and liberties of the Indian people.

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