TT, July 17: The judges of Calcutta High Court have declined to accept a proposal to replace “Calcutta” with “Kolkata” in the name of India’s first high court.
The decision was taken at a full court meeting of the high court judges on July 11 and communicated to the Union law ministry the next day.
However, Union minister of state for law P.P. Chaudhary told The Telegraph that any decision to change the name of high courts lay within the domain of the executive.
The Union cabinet had cleared a proposal earlier this month to pursue a bill to rename the high courts of Calcutta, Mumbai and Chennai that still go by their original names.
The opinion of the Calcutta High Court judges came to light when an organisation of attorneys, the Incorporated Law Society, wrote a letter to the registrar-general of the high court, Sugato Majumdar, on June 11. The letter wanted to know the decision of the high court administration on the renaming proposal.
In his reply on July 14, the registrar-general said: “…I am directed to inform that the Full Court of High Court at Calcutta in a meeting held on 11th July, 2016, unanimously declined to accept the proposal of the Government of India from changing the name of “High Court of Judicature at Calcutta” to “High Court of Judicature at Kolkata” in view of long history and tradition associated with the existing name of the High Court at Calcutta and the view of the Full Court has been communicated to the ministry of Law and Justice, Government of India.”
High court sources said the meeting was convened on July 11 after the Union government’s communication reached the court administration.
A sitting judge, who was present at the meeting said: “The judges of the court took an unanimous decision not to accept the proposal for changing the name of this historic court. But it is also a fact that we cannot restrain the Union government from implementing its cabinet decision. We have raised our objection only.”
Set up in 1862, Calcutta High Court was the first such court in India.
Union minister Chaudhary said: “The renaming is the prerogative of the executive. The government alone has the power to change names of high courts. The decision is taken only after consulting the state’s views.”
Chief minister Mamata Banerjee has not yet publicly articulated her position of the name change. When “Calcutta” was changed to “Kolkata” in 2001 by the Left, neither Mamata nor the leader of any mainstream political party had opposed the decision. The chief minister had also taken the lead in the campaign to rename West Bengal Paschim Banga.
Some lawyers of Calcutta High Court appreciated the stand of the high court judges.
Uttam Majumdar, former general secretary of the Calcutta High Court Bar Association, said lawyers were not ready to accept the Union government’s decision.
Senior lawyer Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharyya also is in favour of the decision taken by the high court judges.
Bhattacharyya said: “The resolution of the high court judges is appreciable. Calcutta High Court is the oldest high court of India. When the name of the city was changed from Calcutta to Kolkata, a large number of people had raised their voice against the decision. Similarly, in this particular case, lawyers and the common people should object to the Centre’s move.”
The Bar Association appears to have taken a middle path. The general secretary of Calcutta High Court Bar Association, Suranjan Dasgupta, said: “Our association is appreciating the view of the Calcutta High Court judges. Lawyers in general are against the Union government’s move to change the name of the high court. The high court was made under a special chartered act. Unless the act is amended or a new law is enacted, Calcutta High Court’s name should not be changed.”
The Centre has cleared the plan to change the law.