Madras High Court

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Madras High Court
Chennai High Court.jpg
Madras High Court Building
Established15 August 1862; 158 years ago (1862-08-15)
LocationPrincipal Seat: George Town, Chennai
Circuit Bench: Madurai
Coordinates13°05′12.8″N 80°17′16.4″E / 13.086889°N 80.287889°E / 13.086889; 80.287889Coordinates: 13°05′12.8″N 80°17′16.4″E / 13.086889°N 80.287889°E / 13.086889; 80.287889
MottoTruth Alone Triumphs
Composition methodPresidential with confirmation of Chief Justice of India and Governor of respective state.
Authorized byConstitution of India
Appeals toSupreme Court of India
Judge term lengthMandatory retirement by age of 62
Number of positions75
(Permanent 56; Addl. 19)
WebsiteMadras High Court
Chief Justice
CurrentlySanjib Banerjee
Since4 January 2021

The Madras High Court [1] is the second oldest High Court of India after the Calcutta High Court in Kolkata.[2][3][4] It is located in Chennai, Tamil Nadu. The court is one of the three High Courts in India established in the three Presidency Towns of Madras, Bombay and Calcutta by letters patent granted by Queen Victoria, bearing date 26 June 1862. It exercises original jurisdiction over the city of Chennai and appellate jurisdiction over the entire state of Tamil Nadu and Union territory of Puducherry, as well as extraordinary original jurisdiction, civil and criminal, under the letters patent and special original jurisdiction for the issue of writs under the Constitution of India.[5][6] Covering 107 acres, the court complex is one of the largest in the world, next only to Supreme Court of the United Kingdom, London.

It consists of 74 judges and a chief justice who are in charge of the general policy adopted in the administration of justice.[6] In September 2016, the centre government forwarded the names of 15 new judges to the President for his signature on their warrants of appointment. Of the 15, nine are from among lawyers and six from the subordinate judiciary.[7]

Justice Sanjib Banerjee is the current Chief Justice of Madras High Court. He assumed office on 4 January 2021.[8][9]


From 1817 to 1862, the Supreme Court of Madras was situated in a building opposite the Chennai Beach railway station. From 1862 to 1892, the High Court was also housed in that building. The present buildings were officially inaugurated on 12 July 1892, when the then Madras Governor, Beilby, Baron Wenlock, handed over the key to the then Chief Justice Sir Arthur Collins.[10]

The statue of Manuneedhi Cholan in the Madras High Court premises

British India's three presidency towns of Madras (Chennai), Bombay (Mumbai), and Calcutta (Kolkata) were each granted a High Court by letters patent dated 26 June 1862.[11] The letters patent were issued by Queen Victoria under the authority of the British parliament's Indian High Courts Act 1861. The three courts remain unique in modern India, having been established under British royal charter; this is in contrast with the country's other high courts, which have been directly established under the Indian Constitution. However, the Constitution of India recognises the status of the older courts.

The Madras High Court was formed by merging the Supreme Court of Judicature at Madras, and the Sadr Diwani Adalat. The Court was required to decide cases in accordance with justice, equity and good conscience. The earliest judges of the High Court included Judges Holloway, Innes, and Morgan. The first Indian to sit as a judge of the High Court was Justice T. Muthuswamy Iyer. Other early Indian judges included Justices V. Krishnaswamy Iyer and P. R. Sundaram Iyer.

The Madras High Court was a pioneer in Original Side jurisdiction reform in favor of Indian practitioners as early as the 1870s.

The Madras High Court's history means that the decisions of the British Judicial Committee of the Privy Council are still binding on it, provided that the ratio of a case has not been overruled by the Supreme Court of India.

Although the name of the city was changed from Madras to Chennai in 1996, the Court as an institution did not follow suit and retained the name as the Madras High Court. However, a Bill to rename the Madras High Court as the Chennai High Court was approved by the cabinet on 5 July 2016, along with the change of name of the Calcutta High Court and Bombay High Court as Kolkata High Court and Mumbai High Court, respectively.[12] The Bill called High Courts (Alternation of Names) Bill has been introduced in the Lok Sabha on 19 July 2016.[13] The Bill is yet to be passed by both Houses of Parliament. However, the Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly has passed a unanimous resolution appealing to the Central Government to rename the court as High Court of Tamil Nadu since the Court serves the whole state.[14]

Building Complex[edit]

Madras High Court, Chennai

The High Court complex is located in the southern end of George Town. The High Court building was constructed after shifting out a couple of temples that were in existence on the land in the 19th century. The present building now used exclusively by the Madras High Court was actually built to house, along with the High Court, the Courts of Small Causes and the City Civil Court, which were subsequently shifted out to other new buildings on the campus.[15]

Construction of the High Court building, an exquisite example of Indo-Saracenic style of architecture, began in October 1888 and was completed in 1892 with the design prepared by J. W. Brassington, the then consulting architect to the government,[15] and later under the guidance of the famed architect Henry Irwin,[16] who completed it with the assistance of J. H. Stephens.

J. W. Brassington initially prepared a plan to construct a building with 11 court halls at an estimate of 945,000. Of these, six were meant for the High Court, four for the Small Causes Court, and one for the City Civil Court. An additional building to house the lawyers’ chambers was subsequently added to the plan, with a walkway on the first floor to connect it to the main building, increasing the total expenditure to 1,298,163. Complementing a 125-feet-tall standalone lighthouse that was already in existence on the court campus, a dioptric light was built on the 142-feet-high main tower of the building, raising the total height of the tower to 175 feet.[15]

Save for the heavy steel girders and some ornamental tiles, almost all the materials for the construction were procured locally. Bricks and terracotta articles were brought from the government brickfields. Most of the construction work was executed by artisans trained at the School of Arts in the city.[15]

The High Court building was damaged in the shelling of Madras by SMS Emden on 22 September 1914, at the beginning of the First World War. It remains one of the very few Indian buildings to have been damaged by a German attack.

There are several matters of architectural interest in the High Court. The painted ceilings and the stained glass doors are masterpieces in themselves. The old lighthouse of the city is housed within the High Court campus but is unfortunately poorly maintained and is in disrepair.

The Department of Posts has allotted a Postal Index Number (PIN) code of 600104 to the zone occupied by the Chennai High Court. The boundaries of the High Court complex are marked by two roads, namely, Prakasam Road (formerly Broadway) and Rajaji Road (the old North Beach Road), stretching northward from the statue of Rajaji in the northeast and the statue of T. Prakasamgaru in the southwest within the complex. The complex houses the largest number of courts in Asia.[17]

Panoramic view of the High Court and its surroundings


The current Chief Justice of the Madras High Court is Sanjib Banerjee. The court currently has 57 judges, including the Chief Justice, who exercise civil, criminal, writ, testamentary and admiralty jurisdiction.[18] The Madurai Bench has been functioning since 2004.

The vestiges of the colonial High Court continue to characterise the premises till date. In a rare tradition which is today a distinction, Judges of the Madras High Court are still led by orderlies who bear a ceremonial mace made of silver. This is a practice so old and Anglican that most High Courts and even the Supreme Court of India have either not had the practice at all or have abandoned it long back.[19]

Reporting—Madras Law Journal (since 1891)[edit]

The Madras High Court is the birthplace of organised legal reporting in India. It is home to the Madras Law Journal,[20] which was the first journal dedicated to reporting texts of judgments of the High Court started way back in 1891.

The High Courts, c. 1905

An informal eponymous club called The Saturday Club, that met at 11 a. m. every week was started at the house of the Vakil Bar's senior member Sir S. Subramania Iyer in Mylapore in 1888 with all leading members of the Madras Bar taking part. At one of these meetings, it was decided to start The Madras Law Journal, which was inspired by the then newly established periodicals like Law Quarterly Review, started by Sir Frederick Pollock in England in 1885 and The Harvard Law Review established by Harvard Law School Association in 1887.

The objectives of the journal were laid out in the preface of the first issue: "In addition to giving our own reports of the decisions of the High Courts in Madras and other places, we hope to place before our readers translations of various Hindu Law Books which remain yet untranslated, insofar as they have bearing on questions which practically arise for decision every day in our Courts of Justice. We propose further from time to time, to place side by side the conflicting decisions of the various Courts in India on the same point in the hope that such procedure will enable the Courts to act in greater harmony than they do at present in the interpretation of Acts and enunciation of general principles of law and when this is not possible, to enable the Legislature to bring about such harmony by removing the ambiguities which may have given rise to such discordant views."

Right from the beginning, The Madras Law Journal has been a source of inspiration and instruction to the students of law, and its notes and editorial reviews always evoked admiration and respect. It achieved well-deserved fame throughout India, in England and America and indeed throughout the British Empire for its quickness and accuracy in reporting and discrimination in the selection of cases to be reported. It has now come to occupy a premier place among legal periodicals in the country and its weight and authority have been consistently considerable with the Bench and the Bar in all parts of India.

Reporting—Madras Weekly Notes (Criminal and Civil) Since 1910[edit]

Madras Weekly Notes is a Law Journal reporting the Criminal Side Judgements of the Hon'ble Madras High Court from 1910 to till date.

Mode of Citation : 1929 1 MWN(Cr.) 1 which means <Year> <Volume> <Journal Name> <Page Number>

Law Journals Reporting Judgements of the Madras High Court[edit]

CTC - Current Tamil Nadu Cases. CWC - Current Writ Cases. TNMAC - Tamil Nadu Motor Accident Cases.

Madurai Bench[edit]

Established in 2004, the court is a boon to the people in fourteen southern districts of Tamil Nadu. The bench has Kanyakumari, Tirunelveli, Thoothukudi, Tenkasi, Madurai, Dindigul, Ramanathapuram, Virudhunagar, Theni, Sivaganga, Pudukottai, Thanjavur, Tiruchirappalli and Karur districts under its jurisdiction.

The 107-acre campus of the Court is one of the largest court campuses in the country, Second Largest in the world after the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom, London and the four-storey administrative building attracts hundreds of litigants every day. The court complex has 12 court halls, furnished on the model of the court halls in the Supreme Court, the Delhi and the Madras High Courts.

The court, since its inauguration on 24 July 2004, has perked up the legal process in the southern districts and has cultivated a large number of social activists, who vouch for the interest of the public though their public interest litigations.[21]

List of Chief Justices[edit]

Watercolour "Holy men outside Sir Thomas Strange house." In 1800, Strange became the first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Fort St. George (Madras), British India.

Supreme Court[edit]

Chief Justice Term
Sir Thomas Andrew Lumisden Strange 1801–1816
Sir John Henry Newbolt 1816–1820
Sir Edmond Stanley 1820–1825
Sir Ralph Palmer 1825–1835
Sir Robert Buckley Comyn 1835–1842
Sir Edward John Gambier 1842–1850
Sir Christopher Rawlinson 1850–1859
Sir Henry Davison 1859–1860
Sir Colley Harman Scotland 1860–1861

High Court (British Administration)[edit]

Chief Justice Term
Sir Colley Harman Scotland 1861–1871
Sir Adam Bittleston 1866–1867 (acting)
Sir Walter Morgan 1871–1879
Sir Charles Arthur Turner 1879–1885
Sir Arthur John Hammond Collins 1885–1898
Charles Arnold White 1899–1914
John Edward Power Wallis 1914–1921
Sir Walter George Salis Schwabe 1921–1924
Sir Murray Coutts-Trotter 1924–1929
Sir Horace Owen Compton Beasley 1929–1937
Sir Alfred Henry Lionel Leach 1937–1947
Sir Frederick William Gentle 1947–1948

High Court (Indian Administration)[edit]

S. No. Chief Justice Date of Appointment Date of Retirement
1 P. V. Rajamannar 1948 10 May 1961
2 S. Ramachandra Iyer 10 May 1961 23 November 1964
3 Palagani Chandra Reddy 23 November 1964 1 July 1966
4 M. Anantanarayanan 1 July 1966 1 May 1969
5 Kuppuswami Naidu Veeraswami 2 May 1969 7 April 1976
6 Palapatti Sadaya Goundar Kailasam 8 April 1976 3 January 1977
7 Padmanbhapillay Govindan Nair 4 January 1977 28 May 1978
8 Tayi Ramaprasada Rao 29 May 1978 6 November 1979
9 Muhammad Kassim Muhammad Ismail 6 November 1979 12 March 1982
10 Ballabh Narayan Singh 12 March 1982 2 April 1984
11 Madhukar Narhar Chandurkar 2 April 1984 19 October 1989
12 Adarsh Sein Anand 1 November 1989 16 June 1992
13 Kanta Kumari Bhatnagar 15 June 1992 1 July 1993
14 Kudarikoti Annadanayya Swamy 1 July 1993 7 July 1997
15 Manmohan Singh Liberhan 7 July 1997 24 May 1999
16 Ashok Chhotelal Agarwal 24 May 1999 9 September 1999
17 K. G. Balakrishnan 9 September 1999 13 September 2000
18 Nagendra Kumar Jain 13 January 2000 12 September 2001
19 B. Subhashan Reddy 12 September 2001 28 November 2004
20 Markandey Katju 28 November 2004 12 November 2005
21 Ajit Prakash Shah 12 November 2005 11 May 2008
22 Asok Kumar Ganguly 21 May 2008 9 March 2009[22]
23 Hemant Laxman Gokhale 9 March 2009 10 June 2010
24 M Y Iqbal 11 June 2010 6 February 2013
Acting Rajesh Kumar Agrawal 7 February 2013 23 October 2013
25 Rajesh Kumar Agrawal 24 October 2013 12 February 2014
Acting Satish K. Agnihotri 13 February 2014 25 July 2014[23]
26 Sanjay Kishan Kaul 26 July 2014 15 February 2017[24]
Acting Huluvadi G. Ramesh 16 February 2017 4 April 2017
27 Indira Banerjee 5 April 2017 6 August 2018
Acting Huluvadi G. Ramesh 7 August 2018 11 August 2018
28 Vijaya Kamlesh Tahilramani 12 August 2018 6 September 2019
Acting Vineet Kothari 21 September 2019 10 November 2019
29 Amreshwar Pratap Sahi 11 November 2019 31 December 2020
Acting Vineet Kothari 1 January 2021 3 January 2021
30 Sanjib Banerjee 4 January 2021 Incumbent

See also[edit]


  1. ^ http://amp/s/
  2. ^ "Calcutta High Court - About". Retrieved 21 October 2020.
  3. ^ "Madras High Court: Where justice began 125 years ago". The New Indian Express. Retrieved 21 October 2020.
  4. ^ Alexander, Deepa (29 January 2019). "History lessons about Madras High Court". The Hindu. ISSN 0971-751X. Retrieved 21 October 2020.
  5. ^ "Madras High Court". BSNL. Archived from the original on 30 January 2012. Retrieved 2 March 2012.
  6. ^ a b "History of Madras High Court". Madras High Court. Archived from the original on 11 March 2014. Retrieved 25 April 2014.
  7. ^ "High Court to get 15 new judges next week". Archived from the original on 25 September 2016. Retrieved 9 May 2017.
  8. ^ Emmanuel, Meera. "A Chief Justice is first a judge and only then a Chief: Madras High Court's newly sworn in Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee". Bar and Bench - Indian Legal news. Retrieved 4 January 2021.
  9. ^ Bench, Bar &. "[Breaking] Chief Justices S Muralidhar, Hima Kohli, Sanjib Banerjee appointed for High Courts of Orissa, Telangana, Madras". Bar and Bench - Indian Legal news. Retrieved 31 December 2020.
  10. ^ Sangameswaran, K. T.; Vivek Narayanan (8 June 2014). "Madras High Court buildings to undergo repairs soon". The Hindu. Chennai: The Hindu. Archived from the original on 9 June 2014. Retrieved 22 June 2014.
  11. ^ "Madras High Court". Archived from the original on 9 May 2017. Retrieved 9 May 2017.
  12. ^ "Cabinet renames high courts in Kolkata, Mumbai, Chennai". 5 July 2016. Archived from the original on 1 November 2016. Retrieved 9 May 2017.
  13. ^ PTI. "Govt. moves Bill to change names of High Courts". Archived from the original on 5 November 2016. Retrieved 9 May 2017.
  14. ^ "Rename Madras high court as Tamil Nadu HC and not as Chennai HC, resolution passed by TN assembly says - Times of India". Archived from the original on 23 June 2017. Retrieved 9 May 2017.
  15. ^ a b c d Mohamed Imranullah, S. (16 September 2017). "A timeless edifice serving justice celebrates 125 years today". The Hindu. Chennai: The Hindu. Archived from the original on 20 September 2017. Retrieved 29 September 2017.
  16. ^ "Restoring the old Article from NewIndPress news website". Archived from the original on 26 November 2006. Retrieved 9 May 2017.
  17. ^ Chandru, K. (26 November 2011). "Some thoughts around the Madras High Court". The Hindu. Chennai: The Hindu. Archived from the original on 28 November 2011. Retrieved 27 November 2011.
  18. ^ Court, Madras High. "Madras High Court - Present Judges". Archived from the original on 16 January 2018.
  19. ^ "Lordships cling to colonial mace". The Hindu. 7 February 2013. ISSN 0971-751X. Archived from the original on 16 March 2013. Retrieved 14 June 2016.
  20. ^ [1] Archived 13 December 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  21. ^ "The 'green bench' that has delivered landmark judgements". The Hindu. Archived from the original on 27 July 2013.
  22. ^ "Justice Asok Kumar Ganguly to be Chief Justice of Madras High Court". The India Post. 21 May 2008. Archived from the original on 17 July 2011. Retrieved 26 November 2009.
  23. ^ "Madras High Court". Archived from the original on 13 July 2016. Retrieved 9 May 2017.
  24. ^ "Madras High Court". Archived from the original on 9 May 2017. Retrieved 9 May 2017.

External links[edit]