The issue of a permanent bench of the Orissa High Court in Western Odisha has always been in the news. Union Law Minister Arjun Ram Meghwal on Tuesday, made it clear that due to the availability of virtual benches under e-Courts Project implemented by the Central government and the Supreme Court at several locations in Odisha, the need for separate permanent benches of the Orissa HC is no longer there as the Central government is yet to receive a complete proposal from the state government with the consent of the Chief Justice of Orissa High Court for the establishment of such permanent benches as per the recommendations of the Jaswant Singh Commission.
Meghwal further said that the recommendations of the Chief Minister, Chief Justice of the respective state, and subsequently recommendation of the Chief Justice of India are needed for the establishment of a High Court bench.
The Union Minister added, “At present, a lot of development is taking place in the e-courts project. Odisha is also doing better than others as far as the e-courts project is concerned. Through e-courts, if we provide virtual facilities, it is similar to High Court bench facilities.”
The Union Minister also pointed out that the state government has to provide necessary infrastructural facilities for the establishment of a Bench of the High Court away from its principal seat as well as the entire expenditure of the High Court and its Bench. The Chief Justice of the High Court is required to look after the day-to-day administration of the High Court and its Bench and depute Judges from the Principal Seat to the Bench from time to time, he added.
As per the data furnished by the Ministry of Law & Justice, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik wrote a letter to the Union Government on September 5, 2018, and January 11, 2019, about the HC bench issue. Replying to the CM, the then Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad had advised him to submit a detailed report with the opinion of the HC, the site for the bench, building, and quarters for the judges, to the Union Government.
The ministry pointed out that the state government did not make any effort to obtain the High Court's opinion and other requirements sought by the Union Government.
The Minister alleged that the Naveen Patnaik government is not committed to the causes of Western Odisha and is being a hurdle in setting up the Permanent Bench of the Orissa High Court. He further alleged that the Odisha government is shying away from the responsibility of establishing a permanent bench of the Orissa High Court in Western Odisha.
"The State government had constituted the C R Pal Commission to study the feasibility of the High Court Bench. The commission submitted its report to the government on March 31, 2014. However, the CR Pal Commission report has not yet been made public. What exactly the Odisha Government is trying to hide?" the minister questioned.
On the other hand, senior BJD leader, Prasanna Acharya said, “There has been a demand for a permanent bench of Orissa High Court in Western Odisha. We hope that the Centre will fulfil the hopes and aspirants of scores of people of Western Odisha.”