The Gauhati High Court Bar Association (GHCBA) has decided to hold a sit-in protest on June 27, Tuesday, opposing the Assam government's proposal to shift the High Court and other courts in and around Guwahati to a single site on the northern bank of the Brahmputra.
The GHCBA president, Senior Advocate Mrinal Kumar Choudhury, confirmed the development to Bar & Bench.
"On Tuesday, we will hold a sit-in-demonstration from 11:00 am to 1:00 pm to protest against proposed shifting as well as against the constitution of a high level committee for the purpose of shifting the High Court," he said.
The association has also addressed a memorandum to the President of India, the Chief Justice of India, the Union Law Minister, and the Assam Chief Minister opposing the proposed shift of the High Court and the city's sessions court to a 'judicial city' in North Guwahati's Rangmahal area.
Presently, the distance between the two sites is roughly 25 km, which is well over an hour's commute taking into account the traffic conditions. However, a new bridge is being constructed, which is expected to reduce the travel time by half.
Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma had first announced a draft plan about this move on April 14 this year. A high-level committee was formed on May 23 to work out the modalities and inspect a site meant to accommodate the Gauhati High Court, other judicial courts of the Kamrup area, and residential accommodation for judges and staff.
The current High Court building has been in use since 1951. A new annex was inaugurated in 2013. The magisterial courts are within 500 metres of the building.
'Move will affect lady lawyers, lead to traffic on bridge and loss of time': GHCBA
The GHCBA, in its memoranda, has expressed deep apprehensions with the proposed 'unilateral' move, pointing out that it is still unclear if all the lower courts of the Kamrup rural and metropolitan districts will be shifted to the new site. The two districts were earlier one, with its headquarters being Guwahati.
"The place where the proposed judicial city is to come up is yet to have any kind of infrastructure and at present it can be reached from Guwahati by travelling over the Saraighat Bridge, which takes about 30 kms of travel or by Ferry Service. However, a new bridge is being constructed over the river Brahmaputra, by a Company which has the dubious distinction of its under-construction bridge over river Ganga collapsing like a pack of cards," the GHCBA's representation said.
The GHCBA also raised grievance over the fact that the registry of the High Court seemed to have been aware of the proposed shift, but did not discuss the same with the bar.
"The haste in the decision-making process and the manner, in which it was taken in a way, raises serious question mark on the independence and autonomy of the Judiciary. The Gauhati High Court Bar Association is categorical in its opposition to the move to shift the Gauhati High Court and other Courts to Rangmahal," the memorandum stated.
Young and female lawyers would be seriously affected if they have to travel all the way to the new site and it would be time-consuming for litigants as well, it was stressed.
"Lawyers and litigants will have to converge at one or two points and finally cross the bridge from a particular point over the river or in its bank and take a single route which would create severe traffic congestion over the bridge and as a result of which valuable time, fuel and energy would be wasted, in the process adversely impacting the system and even the environment. It can be reasonably expected that during the peak hours, the rush of vehicles trying to cross the bridge at a time, would lead to utter chaos," the bar association proceeded to highlight.
It was also pointed out that the decision may have a negative impact on justice delivery in the lower courts, as people would be reluctant 'to lose their entire day in travelling to and from the courts, to stand for others'.
No demands have been made by any of the bar associations for such a shift, the association further highlighted.