This week I got an opportunity to visit the legendary Allahabad High Court in connection with a case. The building from the outside stands majestic, neatly cured lawns, giant pillars, well representing the Victorian architecture. A closer look will tell you the frozen moments of time, filth and ugly shades, a reflection of present day judiciary.
I spoke to many lawyers; all have good words about Justice Chandrachud. They said that he had brought many add-ons to the system – e courts, ladies’ bar rooms, a proper filing system, did away with illegal proxy affidavits and many more in the High Court and subordinate courts. All this description of improvements, made me wonder what the state of affairs would have been before his period.
Mr. Vivek Mishra, a former member of the bar association and Adv. Abhishek who was former reporter with Umar Ujala, took me to every nook and corner of the grand building. They were desperate at the state of affairs; they expressed that a master plan for holistic development with better infrastructure for courts, litigants and lawyers, particularly lady lawyers can alone save the system now. I was deeply moved by their concern for improving the justice delivery system.
The court building has sunk in the sea of motor bikes and cars, the access to the court is marred by the big red paan-spots, and throws a pity picture of desperate clients and struggling lawyers. You would see small groups of lawyers sitting and chatting in front of small dhabas. The disparity in the profession is writ large, a typical Indian-ness, revealing a thriving miniscule minority and suffering majority.
As you cross the newly built security gate and enter the court complex, there before you is the glaring justice delivery system in action.
At the main entrance of the court, for lawyers, you can see the litter all over. The photocopiers and paper book-makers have occupied the main gate. Few lawyers’ tables are also visible. In Allahabad High Court, the lawyers mainly operate from their houses and the sitting area inside and outside court complex.
A golden jubilee plaque, standing with all the dirt and dust since its installation welcomes you.
The main display board inside the court - It seems there is no other storage space in the gigantic building.
I started counting the paan spat-spots but got lost with the numbers. It is just everywhere like an official stamp
Drinking water dispenser is not saved from the pan art.
Another water dispenser
Court enquiry counter, it can’t be shabbier
An important court corridor - The scene outside the canteen; an employee seen busy making food in most transparent manner
Spaces in between buildings, never cleaned
Old files strewn around in the corridors, self-explanatory
Few running files - Judges and court staff are prone to asthma.
View from second floor, inside the Court complex
Behind ladies bar room, RO plant installed but not operational.
Ladies toilets, locked because of leakage, they need to travel the other end of the building for basic needs.
Almirahs used for partition, it seems are as old as the High Court
Litigants have no space in court, they are bound to squat
Chairs in the court rooms, nothing more to say
Entry to filing counter
The external splendor – is all that is relevant!
Most of the difficulties cited above can be remedied by spending a few Lakhs of Rupees for improvements and by appointing more cleaning staff. I was told that the Bar Association has taken few effective steps in setting up libraries, ladies' bar rooms etc. Association has been financially aided by few senior lawyers in renovating the library and canteen. A lot more need to be done to make the space humane and professional for the six to seven thousand lawyers and for a corresponding number of litigants who frequent the court every day.There are around 300 lady lawyers who visit the court every day, and for them there is hardly any facilities, be it wash rooms, sitting area or study space.Within the congested spaces, I was informed, winter months are relatively tolerable. But in scorching summer, the court corridors virtually become fuming concentration camps. When I inquired about the requirement of gowns in summer, my lawyer friend said: “Gown is a must, though it has become grey over years or has turned white with sweat spots. Rules are indeed Rules, all for better administration of justice!”
PV Dinesh is a lawyer practicing in the Supreme Court of India
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