It had housed Chandigarh’s first civil court for more than five years, till the district courts moved to Sector 17 in 1966. On January 25, 2013, the courts shifted to new district courts complex in Sector 43. As the District Courts, Chandigarh, celebrate the 50th anniversary of its Sector 17 Complex, many people do no remember the beginning of the two-storeyed building in Sector 22, which is now a thriving paying guesthouse.
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Built in 1960 by Sumer Chand Jain, the court was the first occupant,which lasted from April 1961 till November 1966. “My father-in-law built this house and the family used to stay in Faridkot,” said Suman Jain, the present owner of the house. Those who are presently residing in Sector 22 also seems to have no clue that the house in their neighbourhood is indeed the city’s first courthouse. A girl staying as a PG in the house said that she has no idea that the building had once housed the courts. Similarly, Babli Thukral, a neighbour who lives next door, “had no clue” that she was the next door neighbour to a building with a rich history.
Before 1961 there were no courts in Chandigarh as the city was a part of Ambala district. Litigants and lawyers travelled to Rupnagar and Ambala to file cases. “The judicial work on the criminal side was under the control of the deputy commissioner, therefore powers were given to the tehsildar and naib tehsildar to try the criminal cases. The first civil court came into existence at Chandigarh in a room of House no 1214, Sector 22. Gurcharan Singh Dhaliwal was the first sub-judge,” informed senior advocate BS Bhatia. Bhatia is among the few people who can recall the court as it was then. “There were three small rooms which looked very different from the courtrooms we have now. There used to be no separate stand for advocates and we all used to work with the minimum facilities available.”
Advocate Ram Saran Dass who practised in the court when it was in Sector 22 recalled,”The surroundings of the house was empty and it was small. The market adjoining the house was also vacant.” The advocates didn’t have separate chambers then and worked from their residence, “We used to practise from our residence when the courts was shifted to Sector 22 in
April 1961as the chambers were yet to be allotted to us,” said Bhatia. Interestingly, even after the courts was sgited to Sector 17, it took 19 years for the lawyers to be allotted a chamber. “The chambers for lawyers were constructed in Sector 17 in the year 1985 and the draw of lots for the same was held on December 23, 1985. Soon after the draw of lots was held, the possession of the chambers were given on January 1, 1986,” he added.
On the functioning of criminal courts, advocate Bhatia said, “The first criminal court started in Chandigarh and Tarlochan Singh was the first magistrate, exercising judicial powers, in a small room near the building of present Punjab and UT Treasury in Sector 17.”
In these 50 years the House number 1214, Sector 22-B, has seen many tenants. After the courts was shifted, the two-storey house was home to three families till 2001 who were not ready to vacate it. They finally agreed to do so after the landlord paid Rs 2 lakh each (Rs 6 lakh lump sum) to them.
“We didn’t want to file a case in the courts,” said Jain, adding, “The tenants told us that if we pay them Rs 2 lakh each they will vacate it. So we paid them the money.”