ON an average, thrice a week, at least 100 government and civic officials from Pune from various departments rush to Mumbai to meet government lawyers in Bombay High Court in connection with writ petitions or PILs filed. These officials, including district collector and municipal commissioner, make it to Mumbai primarily by government vehicles. They are supposed to meet government lawyers, provide information sought by them and even file affidavits. The time, money and efforts involved in this regular but necessary exercise, says Pune Bar Association (PBA), is simply colossal.
This huge loss, says PBA, can be easily avoided if a bench of the Bombay High Court is set up in Pune, a demand that persists for years now. A delegation of PBA on Saturday met Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and Chief Justice of Bombay High Court Manjula Chellur and once again argued strongly to set up the Pune bench of the Bombay High Court for the convenience of one and all, including litigants, lawyers and government officials. The delegation included the likes of senior advocates Harshad Nimbalkar, S K Jain, Bhaskarrao Awhad, M P Bendre and PBA president Rajendra Daundkar.
When the PBA delegation met the CM, he passed on the onus to the Chief Justice. Senior advocate S K Jain, who was part of the delegation, said, “The CM said that the Chief Justice has to take a call. The CJ said that the demand will be decided on the merit. We will form a committee of judges who will look into the demand to set up the bench from cities like Pune and Kolhapur,” said Jain. On his part, the CM that said once the decision is finalised, the government will provide all the necessary funds. “We will provide Rs 22 crore to set up the bench,” he said.
Another senior advocate Harshad Nimbalkar said that the delegation highlighted the key point of pendency of cases from Pune. “About 33 per cent of the cases pending in Bombay High Court are from Pune. If a Pune bench is set up, it will take off a lot of load from the HC,” he said. Besides, Nimbalkar said the delegation argued that Pune was a divisional headquarters with five districts under it. Several key tribunals, like the National Green Tribunal (NGT) and Income Tax Tribunal, function in Pune.
Nimbalkar said that the delegation pointed out to the CM and the CJ that Pune has better connectivity than Kolhapur to Mumbai. “Whether it is by air, rail or road, Pune is close to Mumbai and hence should get preference over Kolhapur,” he said. PBA is apparently making efforts through District Guardian Minister Girish Bapat to set up the bench in Pune. State Minister Chandrakant Patil seems to be holding the brief for advocates in Kolhapur.
The PBA delegation also told the CM and the CJ that in Mumbai, there is a dearth of space for keeping the court records. “But in Pune we have no such problem…there is a need to decentralise the high court work,” said advocate Jain.
PBA highlighted the fact that the demand for a Pune bench was raised in 1978 at the same time when the demand for Aurangbad bench came up. “Even the State Assembly had given a green signal for the setting up of the benches. While the Aurangabad bench came up in 1980 or so, the Pune bench demand remained just that,” Jain said.
Significantly, the PBA said if it is not possible to decide between the two cities, Pune or Kolhapur, then the best solution could be dividing the tenure of the bench between Pune and Kolhapur. “In a month for 15 days, the bench can function in Pune and for another 15 days, it can function in Kolhapur,” said advocate Nimbalkar. It was also suggested that large amount of vacant land is available in Tathwade area where the bench can come up.