It was in 1994 that former Chief Justice Of India M N Venkatachaliah had pitched the idea of a museum so as to showcase the history and development of the country’s judiciary system over the years. Ten years later, the Supreme Court Museum came to life with the goal of letting a visitor relive the evolution of judiciary practices in the subcontinent from as early as the mature Harappan Civilisation (2700- 1900 BCE).
As of today, the museum has a display of over 1,500 items, incorporating case files and documents of the Indira Gandhi assassination documents, Mahatma Gandhi assassination case, and the Shah Bano case, to name a few. Add to these, accessories like wigs and gowns of judges, court furniture, mementoes, and paintings.
“The footfall of the museum has sequentially increased over the years and soon few new galleries will be added on themes covering the high courts of different states, famous verdicts of the Supreme Court and even videos of swearing-in ceremonies,” said the museum’s curator who did not give his name.
As one enters the spherical red sandstone building, a life-size portrait of the father of the Indian Constitution, Dr. B R Ambedkar, greets you. The museum is divided into two galleries — the first records the evolution of the justice system in India, the second showcases an array of objects related to the federal and the Supreme Court.
The sublime objects displayed in the first gallery can be enjoyed with the calming sitar music that is usually played in the background. “The chronological division of this gallery is in the manner of the ancient, medieval and modern historical eras of the subcontinent.” said the museum curator.
The ancient India section has artifacts that show law enforcement and regulations in trade practices. “The seals and inscriptions exhibited here are supposed to be the first evidence of the ancient rule of law,” the museum curator adds further.
This gallery houses the first written record of law and administration of justice from the time of Emperor Ashoka ruling the Mauryan Empire. The Ashokan Pillar (mini replica) in the museum is probably the only one in India today. Facsimiles of religious and law books like Kautilya’s Arthashastra and the Quran are interesting finds.
Infused with Mughal grandeur, the medieval section includes the Mughal state symbol gifted by the High Court of Rajasthan and a scanned treaty sent by Emperor Aurangzeb to Shivaji Maharaj.
The evidence of the first supreme court established by the British Empire in present-day West Bengal forms the part of the last section of this gallery. “The modern section also contains some of the rarest photographs like the one signed by the first chief justice of India and a rich display of more than 400 coins dating back to the 19th century”, says the museum curator.
The descending staircase that leads you to the second gallery that has a display of historic state symbols of kingdoms in Rajasthan. There is also the colossal 20th-century furniture of the federal court.
The glass shielded replica of the Indian Constitution fosters a climate of glory. An entire section dedicated to monumental Supreme Court cases acts as an intersection of historic significance and political chaos.
“A number of other court accessories like ink pots, wigs, ceremonial gowns and the chair of supreme court judges including the latest red velvet one are some of our main preserves,” said a museum official.
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