Many of us may wonder why there should be two High Courts in the same State? After all, despite our small transgressions, Kerala is probably the most law abiding State in India. And if at all two Courts are necessitated by Kerala's linear shape, why one in Trivandrum, can't it be in Malabar as well?
There are some key points that all of us need to understand in order to answer these questions.
- The High Court was never "always" in Cochin. To begin with, the High Court of Travancore - the only independent State in Kerala for most of the British-era - was in Trivandrum. During the formation of Kerala, with Thiru-Kochi to begin with, Trivandrum was chosen as the Capital. The reason was simple, Trivandrum was the only city with modern public buildings and utilities. After all, Trivandrum is still the only city with sewerage, total water network coverage, a public transport system and so on even today, 60 years after State formation. Once the capital was fixed beyond debate, there was a clamour for some institution to be located in Cochin and hence the compromise was to shift the High Court there.
- The High Court, by definition, deals with cases in which the State Government is a party. Other types of cases only reach the HC on appeal from lower courts. Since the State Government is located in Trivandrum, this usually means whole trainloads of Government officials, ranging in stature from clerk to Cabinet Secretary, have to travel to and stay at Cochin to attend cases, lest they incur the wrath of the Judiciary. This places a heavy burden on the already thread-bare State Exchequer. With HC Bench with full filing powers at Trivandrum, all this expenditure can be avoided. The delay often seen in cases due to the inability of Govt. officials to travel to Cochin, because they are held up by official work in Trivandrum can also be avoided. This will definitely help speed up the course of Justice. It is estimated that anywhere from Rs 30 to 100 Crores can be saved annually in this way. To get a perspective on the magnitude of this saving, it would pay for 25 Kms of 4-lane roads, 5,000 low-cost houses or 5 crore mid-day meals for kids.
- The last-ditch argument is that a HC should be at the geographic centre of Kerala. This holds no water at all, since the location is to be dictated by function more than location in this case. If the former argument were to hold, then the Supreme Court (and pretty much anything else in New Delhi) would need to be at Nagpur. And then the capital of the United States would be in Kansas and that of Russia in some god-forsaken Siberian hamlet.
In the meantime, I hope all of you will sign this online petition which asks for the establishment of a full High Court Bench in Trivandrum. And please do pass it on to your friends as well. Thanks in advance and cheers!