Poll, bickering come in way of high courts

Agartala, Jan. 3: The upcoming Assembly elections in Tripura and Meghalaya and the growing differences of opinion over the strength of the bench have put a hurdle in commencement of functioning of full-fledged high courts in Tripura, Manipur and Meghalaya.

In a recent communication, the Union ministry of law and justice has informed the governments of Tripura and Manipur that three posts of judges each will be sanctioned for these states.

But this has sparked adverse reaction, as Tripura had earlier sought a full bench of at least five judges, citing high pendency of cases.

"We have more than 52,000 cases pending in lower courts, while more than 6,000 cases have been pending in Agartala bench of Gauhati High Court. Unless we get five judges there will be problems because we need all five to judge cases related to constitutional matters," B.K. Ghoshal, deputy secretary, law, of the Tripura government, said.

He said chief minister Manik Sarkar had sought five judges for the high court in Tripura in discussions with the Union government and the former minister for law and justice Veerappa Moily had also indicated that the matter would be considered while inaugurating the new high court building in the Capital Complex, north of Agartala.

The problem in Manipur is slightly different, as the state had initially sought seven judges, but the Centre has agreed to provide five.

Protesting against the decision of the Union ministry of law and justice, the lawyers in Manipur have been on strike, making it clear that they will settle for nothing short of five judges.

"I do not wish to comment on the demand and agitation in Manipur, they may have their justifications. However, one must take cognisance of the fact that Tripura is much more populous and has higher pendency of cases than Manipur," senior advocate B.K. Barman said, adding that Tripura's demand for five judges is totally justified.

Ghoshal said the state government was fully prepared to host five judges of the high court, including three currently on bench from the state.

"The infrastructure is almost ready, construction of quarters for the judges based on specifications is yet to be completed. However, we have viable alternative quarters pending completion of the construction. The quarters of the Chief Justice will be on a sprawling government residential premises beside the chief minister's official quarters while other quarters are also ready in Kunjaban near the high court," Ghoshal said.

He, however, expressed the hope that a final decision on the issue would be taken after the Assembly elections, tentatively scheduled to come off by the end of February, and the Union ministry of law and justice would accede to the state's demand for a full bench of five judges.

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