When Chief Justice of Patna High Court kept Viceroy, LG out

Viceroy Lord Hardinge may have inaugurated the Patna High Court building, but for the opening of its judicial session the first Chief Justice invited neither him nor the province's Lt Governor, setting a "benchmark for judicial autonomy" the century-old institution champions till date.

PTI| Last Updated: Aug 02, 2015, 14:36 PM IST

New Delhi: Viceroy Lord Hardinge may have inaugurated the Patna High Court building, but for the opening of its judicial session the first Chief Justice invited neither him nor the province's Lt Governor, setting a "benchmark for judicial autonomy" the century-old institution champions till date.

This historical reference finds a mention in a new book 'The Patna High Court: A Century of Glory', a tribute to the institution.

After creation of the new province of Bihar & Orissa with its capital in Patna, the foundation stone of the Patna High Court building was laid on December 1, 1913 by Lord Hardinge, who later also inaugurated it on February 3, 1916.

Both ceremonies were organised by the province's executive administration, taking place amid much pomp and fanfare.

"But, when it came to the inauguration of the judicial session of the Court on March 1, 1916, first Chief Justice, Sir Edward Maynard Des Champs Chamier, kept it a low-key affair without any fanfare. Bihar & Orissa Lieutenant Governor Sir Edward Gait was not invited and even Viceroy Hardinge whose tenure in India was ending, was kept at bay.

"And, thus the Patna High Court exemplified judicial autonomy from the very first day of its coming into being, a quality that the august institution still carries in its DNA," said Sudhir Kumar Katriar, a former judge of the court, and author of the book.

In second chapter titled 'Patna High Court Commences Work', the author quotes from the autobiography, 'Looking back' by former Chief Justice of India Mehr Chand Mahajan to emphasise this point.

The book also charts the journey of the institution from inception to execution, recalls the luminary judges who inspired awe and admiration alike, and pays tribute to legendary barristers and advocates, who once walked its famed corridors.

Replete with anecdotal references and punctuated by rare archival images, the 370-page volume, using court archives and also reference cases, which the writer says revealed one of the "hallmarks" of the court that it stood "for citizens, as much as for a State".

In an interview to PTI, Katriar, who retired as a judge of Patna High Court in 2011, said, his book is a tribute to the glorious institution, which was raised to an even more exalted status by its legal luminaries, many of whom were also nationalist leaders who contributed to the country's freedom struggle.

The court, a veritable city landmark by virtue of its majestic architecture, will complete its 100 years next February. President Pranab Mukherjee had recently launched the beginning of 'Centenary Celebrations' from its famed lawns where a special stamp and First Day Cover were also released to mark the historic occasion.