On a six-lane road in Amaravati, rows of temporary signages point towards the Andhra Pradesh High Court, the only operational structure in the greenfield capital. The wide roads soon disappear and give way to a two-lane arterial link that connects to the newly inaugurated building. And it is in the shadow of this 2.70-lakh square feet office space that stands a huge white canopy, sheltering advocates, clients and visitors against the harsh afternoon sun.
K Y Krishna Sarma, an advocate, complains that the new high court building, more than a month after its inauguration, still lacks the necessary facilities required for lawyers.
“There is no broadband here, there is no library. If we have to download a judgment for filing something we have to make separate arrangements. Cellphone coverage is also poor. Lawyers, clients, and clerks, everyone is suffering. We didn’t even have a Xerox facility. They temporarily set one up now,” he said.
On January 1, the Andhra High Court officially began functioning from the Chief Minister’s camp office in Vijayawada. The arrangement was temporary as the state government was yet to complete the courthouses which were being built at a cost of Rs 150 crore.
“In Vijayawada, where the court was temporarily set up for close to two months, the court halls were too small. There were 10 tables and 15 chairs. We suffered there like that. Here (Amaravati) also there is not even a single facility,” Sarma said.
The new courthouse in Amaravati began functioning a day after it was inaugurated by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi on February 3. The building has 16 court halls, of which 12 are on the first floor. A five-storeyed administrative block is yet to come. Once completed, it would house 128 lawyer chambers, bar association offices, client rooms, and other facilities.
Until then, the advocates have to make do with a giant canopy containing a smattering of plastic chairs opposite the courthouse. It is here that they meet clients between hearings and take breaks between hearings.
B P Raju, an advocate who is running for the president of the AP Bar Council, said: “There are manyfold problems we are facing here. First of all I am very happy to be at the high court here. Happy that it came to the logical end place. In any area initially, there will be problems. They certainly cannot be solved in one or two days time. As far as advocates are concerned we have some problems. An advocate block has to be there almost all the problems will be over.”
And against the strength of 37 judges, Prasad said, the high court only has 11 till now.
“Judges are also facing work pressure. I am very thankful to the judges, they are very cooperative. We worked here also and Telangana. They are accommodating all the lawyers,” he said.
Raju feels optimistic that all the pending issues will be resolved soon. “No bar association will be able to function without the library. The library will be established by June, I think so. These are all initial problems, I am told. We cannot ask everything to be provided in one day,” he said.
Bhaskar Potluri, an advocate who also practices at the Hyderabad High Court, said: “You can see construction is going on. Finishing is going. It is a newly formed HC, it takes time. The future looks good. Some small difficulties are there but it is a new HC and a new capital so we have to adjust.”
Another common grouse among the lawyers is the distance and time it takes to commute every day to the high court. Most of them live around 25-35 km away in surrounding areas like Mangalagiri, Guntur and Vijayawada. A few hope that the government would allot lands for lawyers to build houses in Amravati. So far only IAS officers, MLAs, MLCs, judges, non-gazetted officers, and class IV employees have been allotted flats.
“We are making repeated requests to the govt to allot us sites of building homes. Even class four employees have been allotted, I am told. Around 1000 to 15000 Advocates come from Hyderabad to practice. My request to govt is to provide some land at a reasonable price. At least 5 to 10 acres. Advocates will be very happy and they will live here. Now we are travelling at least 50 km to and fro from Bhavanipuram. It is taking only 25 mins now but traffic will increase in the future,” Raju said.