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A High Court Bench in Doon?

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By Arun Pratap Singh

Dehradun, 16 Jun: Uttarakhand is not a large state and, therefore, at the surface level, another bench of the Uttarakhand High Court does not seem appropriate or necessary. However, with the demand for such gaining ground over the past few years, the possibility of a bench or re-location of the Uttarakhand High Court from Nainital has become stronger with the High Court itself inviting suggestions from the general public in this respect!
Uttarakhand is a hill state and the High Court in Nainital has not proven to be the most convenient of locations for the petitioners as well as the high court lawyers. Nainital is a tourist-centric town and becomes jam packed in the summer months, Dusshera holidays as well as on weekends due to the huge influx of tourist from across the country. This results in many petitioners not getting accommodation at reasonable prices. Sometimes, accommodation is not available at all due to heavy inflow of tourists. Hence, it has been a long standing demand to set up a permanent bench of the Uttarakhand High Court in Dehradun or Haridwar. However, nothing happened on the ground level in this regard.
At the same time, though, High Court lawyer MC Kandpal had submitted a representation to Chief Justice of the High Court in this respect and forwarded a copy of the representation to the Chief Justice of India, too, in the month of January, this year. Taking cognisance of the representation, the High Court has now invited suggestions from the general public through emails or post with regard to the suggested relocation of the High Court from Nainital to a more convenient location.
This has given rise to speculation that the High Court is serious about the relocation idea. However, in reality, relocation of the High Court is not that easy and the fact is that the High Court too does not have authority to unilaterally decide in this regard. While some political leaders have demanded that the High Court be shifted to Gairsain, the fact is that location is neither convenient nor suitable.
Sources in the legal fraternity from the Uttarakhand High Court claim that relocation may not ultimately happen at it involves decisions at multiple levels and is a politically very sensitive issue. But the exercise and the interest taken by the Court with regard to Kandpal’s representation may ultimately lead to a bench of the High Court either in Dehradun or Haridwar! But even this will take time, they further claim!
It may be recalled that, in his representation, Kandpal had pointed out that when the location of the Uttarakhand High Court was under consideration of the Centre in the year 2000 at the time of the state’s creation, the then Chief Justice of India, Ashok Desai, had expressed his reservations on Nainital as the proposed site. He had felt that Nainital despite a blissful climate was inconveniently located for the High Court as it was a tourist-centric town and was not even connected by air or railways. Traffic jams are also a regular feature and the representation claims that there is not enough parking space for even the lawyers, let alone the petitioners. However, it is pertinent to point out, that the representation merely seeks relocation of the Nainital High Court to another place within the Nainital district, preferably the HMT building as it has ample space for parking and chambers of lawyers as well as court rooms and offices, etc., besides being conveniently located. So it remains to be seen what kind of suggestions are received by the High Court on shifting of the High Court premises or opening a permanent bench of the Court either in Dehradun or Haridwar. Even Haridwar, being a major pilgrimage centre for Hindus from across the globe, regularly witnesses traffic jams.
It may further be recalled that a bill had been introduced in the year 2014 in the Lok Sabha regarding opening of permanent bench of the High Court in the states where the main High Court is located in places other than the state capital. This bill had been introduced by Congress MP and former union minister Shashi Tharoor to provide for establishment of high court benches in the state capital in states where the high courts are located elsewhere.