Bombay High Court

The   'Indian High Court Act' of 1861,  vested in Her Majesty the Queen of England to issue letters patent under the  Great Seal of the United Kingdom to erect and establish High Courts of Calcutta, Madras and Bombay.  The Indian High Courts Act, 1861 did not by itself  create and establish the High Courts in India.  The express and avowed aim of the Act was to effect a fusion of the Supreme Courts and the Sudder Adalats in the three Presidencies and this was to be consummated by issuing Letter Patent.  The Charter of High Court of Bombay was issued on June 26, 1862.

The Bombay High Court was inaugurated on 14th August ,1862.  The High Court had an Original as well as an Appellate Jurisdiction the former derived from the Supreme Court, and the latter from the Sudder Diwani and Sudder Foujdari Adalats, which were merged in the High Court.  With the establishment of the High Court the Penal Code, the Criminal Procedure Code  and Code of Civil Procedure were enacted into law.

The Letter Patent of the Bombay High Court authorized 15 Judges, but it started with only 7. It is remarkable that, for about  60 years thereafter, the High Court managed to pull on with just 7 Judges, although with advancing years, the laws and the litigation both multiplied. There were no indications that this limited Bench was found inadequate to cope with the  work, till about 1919. With  the armistice at the termination of the First World War, there was sudden spurt of litigation in the City of Bombay.  The number of  Suites filed on Original Side, which during War had dwindled down to about 500 rose to about 7000, that the Prothonotary found it difficult to prepare daily boards for 3 Judges. It was only then  that an additional Judge was demanded and was grudgingly granted .   Bombay was lucky or unlucky in having at this crisis a Chief  Justice of exceptional caliber, Sir Norman Mcleod, who instead of multiplying  Judges preferred to massacre suits and appeals.

The Charter of the High Court also made it the supreme and final court of appeal in all cases, civil and criminal, decided by inferior courts, except such as possessed the requisite importance, pecuniary or legal, demanding a further appeal to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council.

Ever since the Constitution of the Privy Council as the Court of ultimate appeal from British India by a Statuette of 1833, the bulk of its business was from Indian appeals; so much so that for Indian appeals, a Judge or a lawyer of adequate Indian experience had later to be associated with the Committee.  The Bombay High Court has been represented on the Judicial Committee by three distinguished judges, and four eminent counsel; Sir Richard Couch, Sir Lawrence Jenkins and Sir John Beaumont, all Chief Justices.   The lawyers who practiced in Bombay High Court before they were appointed to the Judicial Committee, were Sir Andrew Scoble, Sir George Lowndes, Sir D.F. Mulla and Mr. M.R.Jayakar.