Prof Hari Om
On July 16, President Ram Nath Kovind signed the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation (Removal of Difficulties) Order, 2021. The order was notified by the Department of Justice in the Law Ministry the same day. It changed what was called the ‘long-winding and cumbersome’ nomenclature Common High Court of UT of Jammu and Kashmir and UT of Ladakh to ‘High Court of Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh’.This was for the fourth time after 1877 that the name of what could be termed as High Court in this region was changed. It was in 1877 that Maharaja Ranbir Singh established Adalat-ul-Alia. To be more exact, the actual administration of justice, till 1905, was vested in Member of the State Council, in-charge of Adalat-ul-Alia. It should not surprise anyone given the fact that those were altogether different times. It was on March 26, 1928 that Maharaja Hari Singh established High Court of Judicature. It consisted of a Chief Justice and two Puisne judges, appointed by the Maharaja. A Constitution containing 23 Sections enumerated powers and functions of the High Court of Judicature and the judges.Maharaja Hari Singh was the most progressive ruler of the time. He is known for introducing revolutionary reforms for ameliorating and regenerating socio-political, economic and religious lives of people. J&K was founded by Gulab Singh way back in 1846 with Kashmir becoming part of the mighty and benevolent Dogra Kingdom. The first Chief Justice of the High Court of Judicature was Lala Kanwar Sain, Bar-at-Law. The other two judges were Rai Bahadur Lala Bodh Raj Sawhney, Bar-at-Law, and Khan Sahib Agha Syed Hussain. Khan Sahib Agha Syed Hussain was also the first Revenue Commissioner of the High Court.The objective behind the establishment of the Jammu and Kashmir High Court of Judicature was to tone up the administration of Justice. It needs to be underlined that the ruler was the fountain head of justice as well as source of all legislative and executive authority. The establishment of High Court of Judicature was the first step towards separating judiciary from the executive. Before the establishment of High Court of Judicature, one and the same person was invested with both the powers of judge, Adalat-ul-Alia, and the executive duties of the Head of the Judicial Department. He had to perform the varied and incongruous functions of: (a) a high appellate court, (b) an officer in-charge of criminal and civil administration of the state, (c) a legal advisor in criminal and legal cases, and (d) the chief legislative authority. The number of judicial cases lying with the Judicial Minister was too large to be disposed off at once. As a result, too much delay occurred and litigants had to suffer. Even very important and complicated cases received the consideration of a single judge. The appellate work of the Adalat-ul-Alia was too heavy for a single judge, and he seldom went out on tours for inspection of subordinate courts. Moreover, before 1928, the practice of the Adalat-ul-Alia moving from place to place with the Durbar was very inconvenient for the litigants. For, they had either to move accordingly to another province for the hearing of their unattended cases or to wait for several months before the Adalat-ul-Alia returned to their province. The latter caused considerable bitterness, and proved the truth of the proverb, ‘Justice delayed is justice denied’.Indeed, the establishment of the Jammu and Kashmir High Court of Judicature in 1928 was a turning point in the history of administration of justice in J&K. Not fully satisfied with the establishment this court, Maharaja Hari Singh established a Board of Judicial Advisors in 1939. Its duty was to advise the Maharaja on the disposal of appeals referred to him from the decisions of the High Court of Judicature, and on all such matter as the Maharaja ‘may choose to refer to such Board for advice’. Members of the Board were generally recruited from among the retired judges of High Courts in British India. In 1939, the personnel of this Board consisted of three eminent retired judges of the Allahabad High Court.Still, however, Maharaja Hari Singh was not happy with the development of the judiciary. To enhance its prestige, he issued Letters Patent to the High Court of Judicature on August 28, 1943, virtually freeing it from the executive control and placing it directly under him. The Prime Minister was only a channel of communication between him and the High Court of Judicature. The Letters Patent excluded an appeal to the Maharaja from the decree of a single judge of the High Court of Judicature from which an appeal was provided to a full bench. It was only from the other judgments of the judges of the High Court of Judicature that an appeal could lie to the Maharaja.The High Court of Judicature established in March 1928 functioned till January 26, 1957, when the Jammu and Kashmir Constitution framed by the 100% rigged Constituent-cum-Legislative Assembly was introduced in Jammu and Kashmir. This Assembly consisting of 43 members from Kashmir, 30 from Jammu and two from Ladakh was elected in 1951. 73 out of 75 members returned to the assembly unopposed because the nomination papers of the opposition candidates, including those belonging to the J&K Praja Parishad, were rejected.The new Constitution, which replaced the Jammu and Kashmir Constitutional Act, 1939, under which the final interpreter of the Constitution was the Council of Ministers, as opposed to the High Court of Judicature, renamed the Jammu and Kashmir High Court of Judicature as Jammu and Kashmir High Court. This was the third time when the nomenclature of the High Court in Jammu and Kashmir was changed.But the story of the nomenclature of Jammu and Kashmir High Court didn’t end on January 26, 1947. Its name was again changed on August 5-6, 2019, when Article 370 and Jammu and Kashmir Constitution of 1957 became stories of the past and Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, 2019, enforced. The new Act renamed the Jammu and Kashmir High Court as Common High Court of UT of Jammu and Kashmir and UT of Ladakh. In other words, the name of the Jammu and Kashmir High Court was changed for the fourth time in 2019. And on July 16, 2021, Common High Court of UT of Jammu & Kashmir and UT of Ladakh was renamed as High Court of Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh.
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