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Home > Kolkata Diary > Heritage Buildings of Colonial Calcutta > HERITAGE BUILDINGS OF CALCUTTA – The Calcutta High Court


Close to the eastern bank of The Hoogly River stands the majestic structure of The Calcutta High Court, the oldest High Court in India. Constructed in neo-Gothic style, it was opened in 1872 and has jurisdiction over the state of West Bengal and the Union Territory of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. In fact, the building of the Calcutta High Court was constructed  ten years after the establishment of the court itself. The design, by the then government architect Walter Granville, was loosely modeled on the 13th-century Cloth Hall at Ypres in Belgium, which was devastated by artillery fire during World War I.

High Court of Calcutta - Mid 19th Century
High Court of Calcutta – Mid 19th Century

Construction of the High Court building started in 1864. It took four years to complete and in 1872 the Calcutta High Court started to function in this building. Built in neo-Gothic style of architecture, the front of the building is made of stone block. A grand colonnade is in the lower storey of the south front. The capitals of the pillars are of beautifully sculptured Caen stone. The center tower of the south front, which is 180 feet high, is a little taller than the Ochterlony monument. Main entrance is through the tower and the main stair is within it. There is a well maintained lawn inside the High Court building. Recently in 2011 and 2012, the stone blocks of the veranda on the ground floor were replaced with thin marble tiles. A new annexed building, named High Court centenary building was inaugurated in 1977. It consists of an overhead passage from the South face of the original building.

Calcutta High Court is the oldest of all the High Courts in India. The so called Sepoy Mutiny in 1857 necessitated rethinking on the administrators of India and the reforms and recognition of the law courts. Actually, it was established on 1st July 1862 as the High Court of Judicature at Fort William, under the High Court Act, which was established in 1861. However, the building was constructed much later and was opened in 1872.

Calcutta High Court - 1903

During the early days of the High Court building, there has been a large tank just in front of the building. It was filled up later on to build a road there. Several buildings were erased to make room for the construction of the High Court building. The residential building of Archibald Keir was purchased by the Government and demolished for the purpose. The house of Longueville Clarke, a famous advocate of that court and the founder of the Bar Library, Ice House and Metcalfe Hall, was also razed. Apart from that, the house of William Macpherson, Master of the Supreme Court, was demolished. Even the house of Sir James Colville, Chief Justice in 1855, was also leveled to the ground in the process of erecting the new High Court building.

Inside Calcutta High Court
Inside Calcutta High Court

The Calcutta High Court is the oldest High Court in India and one of the three Chartered High Courts established in the country, along with the High Courts of Bombay and Madras. Initially,  it was established as the High Court of Judicature at Fort William, on 1st July, 1862 under the High Courts Act, 1861. The Calcutta High Court brought into existence by the Letters Patent granted by Her Majesty Queen Victoria, dated 26th June, 1862. It provided that the jurisdiction and powers of the High Court were to be defined by Letters Patent. With Sir Barnes Peacock as its first Chief Justice, The High Court of Judicature at Fort William was formally opened on 1st July, 1862. Justice Sumboo Nath Pandit, appointed on the 2nd February, 1863, was the first Indian to assume office as a Judge of the Calcutta High Court, followed by legal experts such as Justice Dwarka Nath Mitter, Justice Ramesh Chandra Mitter, Sir Chunder Madhab Ghosh, Sir Gooroodas Banerji, Sir Ashutosh Mookerjee and Justice P.B. Chakravartti who was the first Indian to become a permanent Chief Justice of the Calcutta High Court.

High Court of Calcutta present days
High Court of Calcutta present days
High Court of Calcutta New Building
Dibyendu Banerjee
Ex student of Scottish Church College. Served a Nationalised Bank for nearly 35 years. Authored novels in Bengali. Translated into Bengali novels/short stories of Leo Tolstoy, Eric Maria Remarque, D.H.Lawrence, Harold Robbins, Guy de Maupassant, Somerset Maugham and others. Also compiled collections of short stories from Africa and Third World. Interested in literature, history, music, sports and international films.

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