on a Golden Jubilee
Mr. Justice K S Garewal
Once upon a time, not very long ago, on a sparsely populated
plateau, there existed hamlets and homesteads inhabited by small farmers,
shepherds and artisans. Their
land was of very poor quality, soil was prone to erosion by seasonal
rivulets, the nearby hills were densely wooded and abounded in game.
Water from artesian wells fulfilled their basic needs and their
crops were largely rain-fed. There
was no electricity for homes or farms, neither free nor metered.
A rudimentary form of water harvesting was practices and this
valuable resource was not wasted. Everyone
lived simple and uncomplicated lives.
Progress came in the shape of
began to change. The villagers
were displaced after receiving a few hundred rupees per acre as
compensation and they left without demur.
The plateau got transformed into a well planned and beautifully
laid-out city of spacious bungalows, gardens, parks and markets but a city
which is perennially short of water.
The city and its peripheral towns and villages are presently home
to over two million people. The
city possesses two siblings, Sahibzada Ajit Singh Nagar (Mohali) towards
its south-west and Panchkula towards its south-east.
This agglomeration has even earned the inelegant epithet of
flank is covered by the Western Army headquartered at Chandimandir.
Towards its western and northern borders is the unplanned, cluttered poor
quarter, a pseudo-suburbia of some of the original villages which have
grown into unrecognizable slums. Between
the city and Chandimandir lies Mansa Devi, and to its south is Mani Majra,
where a spanking new technology park is coming up.
In between the planned residential areas and the shabby suburbs lie
shanty colonies housing poor working class migrant labour, easterners from
Uttar Pradesh and
Bihar, displaced by
poverty in their own states.
Beyond the periphery of the City stretches the great
sloping towards southwest where the five rivers, together with the river
flow towards the sea. To the
City's south is Haryana, all the way down the
Grand Trunk Road
, past the
battlefields of Kurukshetra and Panipat, between the Jamuna and the Thar,
upto the national capital and beyond, bounding
Undeniably it is the impressive mountainous backdrop which has not
changed. The Kasauli range has
stood out in bold relief, since time immemorial, keeping an eye on the
city and watching it grow from a sleepy little town to a vibrant urban
centre of government, business, commerce, health and education.
The profile of the hill etches out a line on a graph and is
something no visitor to the city can forget.
However over the years the hill has been denuded of its forest
cover, its stately oaks, dense deodars and cheel pines are all but gone.
Illegal felling and forest fires have been taking a regular toll of
these once lovely forests. The
atmosphere has become hazy with with dust and pollutants, both industrial
and vehicular. There was a
time when pollution was non-existent, the hills were green and provided a
clear view of themselves, even the snowcapped Churdhar in Sirmour and the
Dhauladhar in Kangra would be visible on extra clear days.
From the hilltops one could clearly see a well laid city below.
This is no longer possible. The
countryside in which
came up is
gone for good. The call of the
partridge, the dance of the peacock, the slight of hare stunned by car
lights, the howl of jackals at night are neither seen nor heard any more.
The Court was established on the eastern edge of the new Capitol
Complex designed by the well-known Swiss born and
architect Charles-Edouard Jenneret, better
known as Monsieur Le Corbusier.
Facing the Court was the Civil Secretariat, looking like an
ocean-liner. A little to one side was the Assembly Hall resembling its
engine room, complete with a chimney on top –ship of state as it were.
The Court’s building was set a few hundred yards away at a
respectable distance. It was
said to resemble a mouth-organ, others called it a barn.
The windswept plateau slowly acquired the pretensions of being a
city, and that too the capital of
The Court sat in the new Palais de Justice for the first time on
January 17, 1955, on reopening after the Christmas break, during which it
migrated lock, stock and barrel from Simla to Chandigarh.
There was a simple and dignified flag hoisting ceremony, afterwards
speeches were delivered by Advocate-General Sarv Mittra Sikri (elevated as
Judge, Supreme Court in 1964 and Chief Justice of India 1971-73),
President of the Bar, Amolak Ram Kapur and Chief Justice Amar Nath
Bhandari. The Court was
presided over by Chief Justice G.D. Khosla, I.C.S., Justice Harnam Singh,
M.A., LL.B., Justice D.Falshaw, I.C.S., Justice J.L.Kapur, Bar-at-law,
Justice S.S. Dulat, I.C.S. and Justice Bishan Narain, Bar-at-law.
The formal inauguration of the Court by the late Pandit Jawahar Lal
Nehru actually took place two months later on
March 19, 1955.
The Judges and about 72 lawyers, including some of the original 64
who had migrated from
Lahore, descended on
mountain fastness of Simla which had been the Court's home since
partition in 1947.
Those days most lawyers and their clerks used bicycles as the
favoured mode of transport and upon the carriers of the bicycles were
placed their slim briefs and law books.
Nowadays a few thousand cars bring the honourable gentlemen of the
legal profession to Court. One
did not see the large tomes one sees today nor the fat briefs that are
brought every morning to the Court only to be carried back in the evening
to be brought back again the next day.
How one hopes that laptops come into greater vogue soon and with
increasing computerization we are able to function in a paperless way.
Contemporary briefs have a tendency to fatten with time.
Briefs in the old days were slim and the legal points were
succinctly argued and quickly pronounced upon. And what a joy it still is
to read the judgments delivered by the Judges of yore.
The pendency of cases and the arrears situation was not grim, not
even a hundredth of what one has today.
Judges sat at 10, often rose for the day by lunchtime, early
afternoons were consumed in dictating judgments and by 4 they would be off
for a set or two off tennis, and later to the club for a few rubbers of
bridge. During the winter
season some would drive off for an afternoon shoot a bag a some birds for
the pot before settling down in front of a log fire to enjoy their
libations. The idyllic setting
has disappeared for good.
One of the main reasons for shifting the High Court from Simla to
convenience of the litigants and to give them equal opportunity to secure
justice. It was extremely hard
for a petitioner, an appellant or the respondent to travel all the way to
Simla from say, Hissar or Gurgaon or Ferozepur.
Often the parties would bring along with them their District Court
lawyers to brief their High Court counterparts on their behalf.
The cold and wet
weather of the hills was daunting for the lawyers and the litigants from
The litigants who earlier had to trek to Simla began to flock to
A trickle in the 50s became a steady stream in the 60s & 70s.
It is now a mighty torrent. The
strength of the Bar is up from 35 to 4150.
The strength of the Bench is up from 6 to 28 with quite a few
judicial work has expanded exponentially to keep the lawyers busy.
A huge mass of humanity visits the Court every day.
When the Court sits at 10 every morning a gigantic judicial drama
unfolds, its myriad jurisdictions come into play and the streams of
justice begin to flow from the fount of justice which the Court rightfully
represents. May the streams of
justice every remain clear, clean and pure.
In a sense, I too am a migrant from
My parents had lived there till June 1947 and moved to
to a house in the vicinity of Hardinge
(now Tilak) Bridge, very close to where the Supreme Court of India was to
be built some years later. I
was born in September, a few weeks after
The site for the Supreme Court of India had been our playing field.
I had watched with awe the building of the Supreme Court coming up.
I had no idea of law except that if you broke school rules you
could be punished. It was
after the family moved to the farm in Ludhiana in 1967 that I thought of
taking up legal studies. My
final decision to join the legal profession was taken in 1972, after
declining an opportunity to become a civil servant.
It was in January 1975 that I entered the portals of the High Court
as a young lawyer, full of hope, idealism and a desire to help the common
man. I had already put in over
two years in the chambers of a Barrister in the District Courts at
I had prepared my first case well and I thought I had put it across
nicely but it was dismissed in a jiffy at 10.05 am and I was free for the
rest of the day motion hearings those days concluded by 11 am, nowadays
motion hearings drag on till later afternoon, leaving little time for
regular hearing of admitted cases.
I heard and saw many stalwart Judges and lawyers in my ten years at
the Bar of the Court. I made
my final bow in 1986 and gave up chasing lucre to retreat into the shell
of security provided by judicial service.
Fourteen years later I was taken on the Bench.
It is the misery and hardships suffered by ordinary men that has
kept me and my family in food and raiment.
I shall ever be grateful to the Court for this opportunity to serve
the public and be useful to society. This has enabled me, in a small way,
to repay my debt of gratitude to the common man.
Our Golden Jubilee is an occasion to think about the shape of
things to come. Industrialization
on a global scale will lead to massive urbanization and shall throw up new
problems of administration of justice. People shall demand better
governance, quicker resolution of disputes and effective enforcement as
well protection of their rights. The
Judiciary shall be required to come up with new and better solutions.
Every Judge shall have to think globally while acting locally.
The Bench and the Bar shall be required to act together with much
greater cohesion to meet new challenges.
Alternative means of dispute resolution to reduce arrears shall
have to be more effectively used. We
shall have to improve the flow of cases and manage them better.
However, we shall at all times have to remain focused on delivery
of quick, effective and inexpensive justice to all.
I am certain that a new era has dawned and our court shall soon
reoccupy its pre-eminent position in the vanguard of Indian Judiciary.