Kerala High Court
The High Court of Kerala is the highest court in the Indian state of Kerala and in the Union Territory of Lakshadweep. The High Court of Kerala is headquartered at Ernakulam, Kochi. Drawing its powers under Article 226 of the Constitution of India, the High Court has the power to issue directions, orders and writs including the writs of habeas corpus, mandamus, prohibition, quo warranto and certiorari for ensuring the enforcement of the Fundamental Rights guaranteed by the Constitution to citizens or for other specified purposes.
The High Court is empowered with original, appellate and revisional jurisdiction in civil as well as criminal matters, and the power to answer references to it under some statutes. The High Court has the superintendence and visitorial jurisdiction over all courts and tribunals of inferior jurisdiction covered under its territorial jurisdiction.
At present, the sanctioned Judge strength of the High Court of Kerala is 27 Permanent Judges including the Chief Justice and 12 Additional Judges. Depending on the importance and nature of the question to be adjudicated, the judges sit as Single (one judge), Division (two judges), Full (three judges) or such other benches of larger strengths.
The foundation stone for the new multi-storied building now housing the High Court of Kerala was laid on 14 March 1994 by the then Chief Justice of India, Justice M. N. Venkatachaliah. The estimated cost of construction was 10 crore Indian rupees. The construction was completed in 2005. The completed High Court building was inaugurated by the Chief Justice of India, Justice Y. K. Sabharwal on 11 February 2006.
The new High Court building is equipped with modern amenities like videoconferencing, air conditioned courtrooms, intranet, facilities for retrieval of order copies and publishing of the case status via the internet. The building is built on 5 acres (20,000 m2) of land and has a built-up area of 550,000 square feet (51,000 m2) over nine floors. The building has in it a post office, bank, medical clinic, library, canteens and such other most needed utilities and services. The High Court of Kerala has moved to its new building from the date of its inauguration, from the adjacent Ram Mohan Palace, where it had been functioning.
History of judicial system in the State of Kerala
KHCAA Golden Jubilee Chamber Complex
The present State of Kerala is result of integrating the erstwhile princely kingdoms of Travancore and Cochin with Malabar district and Kasaragod. The present judicial system in Kerala has its roots dating back to the days of the monarchs of the Kingdoms of Travancore and Cochin.
In 1811, following the 1808 insurrection against British Cochin and Quilon, Colonel H. M. Munro succeeded Colonel Macaulay as the Resident in Travancore with supervision over the Kingdom of Cochin. Following an investigation into the rampant lawlessness and the abuse of the system, Colonel Munro surveyed the region with his assistant Captain Blacker and established reforms including courts, pensions, construction of roads, bridges and schools. He functioned as the Diwan until February 1818 when he handed over the reins to Nanjappayya of Coimbatore. Thus it was Colonel Munro laid the foundations for a systematic legal system, resulting in the present day scenario. Until his time, there were no independent tribunals for the administration of justice.
Judicial system in the Kingdom of Travancore
In the Kingdom of Travancore, Colonel Munro recommended necessary regulations to be passed for the reorganisation of the Courts. These recommendations were accepted by the then Travancore monarch and a Regulation in tune to his recommendations was passed in 1811. Zilla Courts and a Huzur Court were established in the Kingdom of Travancore, in the years 1811 and 1814 respectively.
Colonel Munro established five zilla (District) courts in A.D 1811 at Padmanabhapuram, Thiruvananthapuram, Mavelikkara, Vaikom and Aluva. Huzur Court, which functioned as the final appellate Court was later replaced by Sadar Court in 1861. Sadar Court, which possessed almost all the powers of the present High Court of Kerala, continued functioning until 1881. Later in 1887, the High Court of Travancore was established with bench strength of five judges. One among the five judges was appointed as the Chief Justice. The judges had the assistance of a Pundit, who acted like an amicus curiae to advice them on the various points of Hindu law. Mr. Ramachandra Iyer was appointed as the first Chief Justice, at his prime age of 35.
Judicial system in the Kingdom of Cochin
In the Kingdom of Cochin, Desavazhis and Naduvazhis were empowered to settle the disputes following the prevailing customary law. More serious matters used to be attended by the monarch himself. In 1812, for the first time in its history, graded law courts were established under the Diwanship of Colonel Munro, in the Kingdom of Cochin. The first Subordinate Courts (Sub Courts) were established by Colonel Munro at Trichur (Thrissur) and Tripunithura. Until 1835, Huzur Court was the final appellate Court. Huzur Court had a bench strength of three judges. Later the Huzur Court was reconstituted as Rajah’s Court of Appeal and Subordinate Courts were reconstituted as Zilla Courts. The Zilla Courts were empowered with unlimited jurisdiction, but subject to the confirmation from the Rajah’s Court of Appeal. The Rajah’s Court of Appeal was reconstituted as the Chief Court of Cochin in 1900. The Chief Court of Cochin had three permanent judges one of whom acted as the Chief Judge. Mr. S. Locke was appointed as the first Chief Judge. Later the Chief Court of Cochin was reconstituted as the High Court, during the Diwanship of Sri. Shanmukham Chettiyar.
After the integration of Travancore and Cochin kingdoms
After India gained her independence on 15 August 1947, the Kingdoms of Travancore and Cochin were integrated to form the Travancore-Cochin State or Thiru-Kochi on 1 July 1949. Later, the High Court of Travancore-Cochin was established at Ernakulam on 7 July 1949 under the Travancore-Cochin High Court Act (1949). Mr. Puthupally Krishna Pillai was the last Chief Justice of High Court of Travancore-Cochin.
Establishment of High Court of Kerala
On 1 November 1956, the States Reorganisation Act, 1956 was passed thereby integrating the State of Travancore-Cochin with Malabar district and Kasaragod to form the present State of Kerala. The High Court of Kerala, as it is today was established on 1 November 1956 as the High Court designated for the State of Kerala.
The Kerala High Court Act, 1958 defined the jurisdiction and various functions, and powers of the High Court of Kerala. Initially, many cases from both the Travancore-Cochin High Court and the High Court of Madras were transferred to the High Court of Kerala for adjudication. Justice K. T. Koshi was appointed as the first Chief Justice of High Court of Kerala.