Srinagar: A Public Interest Litigation has been moved before J&K High Court seeking declaration of Saddar Court complex here as an ancient monument.
According to the PIL, filed by Kashmir High Court Bar Association through its president advocate Mian Abdul Qayoom, some structures in the complex are more than a century old and have great historical importance.
The Saddar Court complex, located in the centre of Srinagar with close proximity to historical LaL Chowk, was deluged by recent floods and has been declared as unsafe by engineers.
“(State of J&K through Chief Secretary) is obliged under law to declare the entire complex as an ancient monument within the meaning of section 3 of J&K Ancient Monuments Preservation Act, so that the entire complex is maintained properly, which shall include the fencing, covering in, repairing and cleansing of the monument or to do all acts which may be necessary for its protection and preservation,” reads the PIL.
It has also demanded that no one should be allowed to cause any interference with the buildings or with the land underneath or appurtenants.
The lawyers’ body has delineated reasons for moving to the High Court for “efficacious remedy” to preserve the complex following the shifting of lower courts to Sanatghar Bemina here.
“Members of the Executive committee met three Judge of the High Court on October 25 and apprised them about the difficulties and requested them again to make the courts functional at Sadder Court complex or at Mominabad but they ruled out (saying) that the complex has been declared unsafe by the Engineering Department and the construction (for new lower courts building) at Mominabad is still incomplete.”
The judges, however, assured the lawyers that they will try to provide them all facilities at Sanatghar, Bemina to make their working comfortable provided they also cooperate with them, the PIL said.
“After the meeting, the three Judges visited Sanatghar Srinagar and earmarked certain rooms and halls for lawyers. In the meanwhile, a rumour was however, floated by certain vested interests that actually Sadder Court complex has been sold to some Waseem Chaya by the High Court, in league with the executive committee of the Bar Association under a secret deal.”
The alleged deal was floated to be reason for which High court has not agreed to the starting of the subordinate courts from the Sadder court complex.
“The allegation being totally false, unfounded, baseless, scandalous and mischievous deserves all sorts of condemnation,” the PIL reads
Notwithstanding the rumour, it is a fact that some two years before the Bar Association had requested the Chief Justice to get the Sadder Court Complex, Srinagar declared as an ancient monument because the courts are to move to Mominabad once the construction was completed.
“Even on October 25, when Bar Executive along with some more lawyers met three Judges, the request was repeated and even one of the Judge made a note of it but till date, no such declaration has been got issued by (Registrar General Of High Court) from the Government nor any steps have been taken to preserve and protect the complex as a result of which, the Sadder Court complex looks like a deserted place today with no one interested to preserve and protect it as an ancient monument or a place of heritage.”
Even as the PIL has not specified historical importance of the complex, it has witnessed arguments by some leading lawyers of pre and post partition eras including founder of Pakistan, Muhammad Ali Jinnah in 1936.
Known among many as Quaid-e-Azam, Jinnah is said to have appeared in the case titled State v/s Haneefa Begum and Maher Ali.
Jinnah is said to have impressed then Chief Justice Saberjor Lal, Justice Abdul Qayoom and Justice Seini so much that they decided the case in his favour in the very first sitting.
It was actually Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah who persuaded him to accept Mehar Ali’s case and finds the mention in NC founder’s biography—the Aatish-e-Chinar.
Besides the Chief Secretary and Registrar of the J&K High Court, the respondents in the PIL include Director Archeology, Senior Superintendent of Police Srinagar and SHO Police Station, Maisurna.