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Rare legal documents on display as Bombay High Court turns 150

A plethora of rare legal documents and other reminders of the Bombay High Court’s long history were on display at an exhibition organised by it as part of its celebrations on having completed 150 years.

Written by NEERAD PANDHARIPANDE |
August 16, 2012 1:46:28 am

A plethora of rare legal documents and other reminders of the Bombay High Court’s long history were on display at an exhibition organised by it as part of its celebrations on having completed 150 years.

The exhibition,which displays articles and documents of historical importance,was inaugurated on Wednesday in the central hall of the court.

It will be open till September 16.

The Bombay High Court,along with the Calcutta High Court and Madras High Court,was established in 1862 after the enactment of the High Courts Act,1861. The present building of the High Court,situated in Fort,was completed in 1878.

The exhibition features several legal documents belonging to the early days of the court,including court fee stamps and lease deeds drafted in that era. An interesting article was a letter of summons issued to a litigant in his native language — Gujarati.

One of the most significant documents on display was a letter from 1923,by which M K Gandhi was deleted from the advocates’ roll. His licence to practice in the court had been cancelled after he was convicted of sedition for his articles written in “Young India.” The order was passed by a panel of seven judges headed by the then Chief Justice Norman Macleod. A few steps away is a letter enrolling Babasaheb Ambedkar as an advocate of the court,as also a similar letter by M C Chagla,who later became the first Chief Justice of independent India.

The three sedition trials of Bal Gangadhar Tilak between 1897 and 1916,one of the most significant cases in the High Court’s history,are given a prominent mention at the entrance of the exhibition.

Outside the central courtroom,Tilak’s words after he was convicted for the second time in 1907 are inscribed,“In spite of the verdict of the jury,I still maintain that I am innocent. There are higher powers that rule the destinies of men and nations; and I think,it may be the will of Providence that the cause I represent may be benefited more by my suffering than by my pen and tongue”.

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