A complete judicial system is the corner stone of a civilized society. The judiciary and the Courts in any society are in a continuous process of change and transition. Manipur was an Independent State before the advent of British in Manipur. The Ruler i.e. the King of Manipur was the head of both judiciary and executive. The king, under the monarchy system, looked into the matter of administration of justice by establishing different Courts and empowering some wise and noble persons under him to take up judicial works for deciding disputes and cases according to uncodified customary laws, usages and the principle of natural justice.
During British period, judges were appointed by the British Political Agent and the Political Agent also tried cases. Under the Government of India Act, 1879, the Chief Commissioner of Assam exercised the powers of the High Court by hearing appeals against the decision of Political Agent.
After His Highness, Sir Chura Chand Singh attained the majority in the year 1907, there were certain changes in the judicial administration of Manipur. The Manipur State Darbar was established for judicial administration. With the establishment of the Darbar, the office of the Superintendent of State existed earlier ceased to exist. The Darbar heard Civil and Criminal appeals from the decision of Cheirap Court and also tried all cases beyond the jurisdiction of the Cheirap Court except those in which hill tribes are concerned and those that arose within British reserve.
After His Highness Chura Chand Singh was conferred the title of Maharaja in January 1918, he no longer sat in the Darbar. A Bristish Officer whose services were lent to the State of Manipur became the President of the Darbar. Against the decision of Darbar, Appeal and Revision lies to His Highness Chura Chand Singh, the Maharaja of Manipur in both Civil and Criminal cases. All resolutions of the Darbar became operative after approval of the Maharaja. Cases where European British subjects were a party was triable by the Political Agent. In case of punishment of death sentence in criminal cases, it was subject to confirmation by the Governor of Assam.
In the year 1947, the Manipur State Constitution Act, 1947 was enacted and it extended to the whole of Manipur. In the same year the Manipur State Courts Act 1947 was enacted. The Manipur State Hill Peoples (Administration) Regulation 1947 was also enacted for administration of justice of the Hill Peoples of Manipur. Under the Manipur State Constitution Act, 1947, there was a complete separation of judiciary from the executive. Under the Manipur State Courts Act, 1947, the Chief Court, Court of Sessions, Courts of Magistrate 1st Class, Court of Magistrate 2nd Class and Third Class in Criminal side and for civil matters, Court of District Judge, Sub—Judge, Munsiff and Village Panchayat which constitute the base of the entire judicial pyramid were set up. Under the Manipur State Constitution Act, 1947, the Maharaja of Manipur was the head of the State and the Chief justice of the State and two Puisne judges were appointed by the Maharajah in the Council. The Maharaja of Manipur had Appellate jurisdiction in certain cases.
After the merger of the State of Manipur into the dominion of India in 1949, the Chief Court was abolished and substituted by the word “The Court of Judicial Commissioner” and the word Chief Judge was substituted by the word Judicial Commissioner under the Manipur State Courts (Amendment) Order 1950 and the Court of Judicial Commissioner was declared as High Court of Manipur. After enactment of North Eastern Areas (Reorganisation) Act, 1971, by virtue of operation of Section 28 of the said Act, the High Court of Assam, Nagaland, Meghalaya, Manipur and Tripura was established and the said common High Court was named as “Gauhati High Court” with its permanent Bench at Gauhati. There was no regular Bench of Cauhati High Court in Manipur except a Circuit Bench constituted from time to time. A sense of despair was inevitable to many of the poor litigants of Manipur who were entangled in the litigation and unable to afford the expenditure for going to Gauhati and engaging their counsels. It created disillusion to all those who knocked at the doors of Court and thus, justice was virtually denied to them.
The Hon’ble Justice S.N. Phukan (retired Judge Supreme Court), while sitting frequently as a Gauhati High Court Judge at the Circuit Bench at Imphal had inspired the Advocates practising in the High Court the necessity of а High Court Bar Association. To ensure and protect basic values and welfare of the Advocates’ fraternity, the Advocate who were practising mostly in High Court with a common aim and objective and with an endeavour to serve the interest of Advocates’ fraternity, the present High Court Bar Assocation was established and came into its existence and registered on 16.11.1990 under the Manipur Societies Registration Act, 1989. The High Court Bar Association, Manipur was initially formed only by a few members and many of them are no longer with us today. The Hon’ble Justice (Late) N. Surjamani Singh and the Hon’ble Justice T. Nandakumar Singh, the Judge of the Meghalaya High Court, amongst various others, were the active founding members of the High Court Bar Association. They had sacrificed a lot by rendering their valuable services to flourish the present Bar Association and today we have more than 600 members and is gradually increasing. A permanent Bench of Gauhati High Court was established at lmphal w.e.f. the 21st January, 1992 after a long demand. We deeply appreciate the efforts and sacrifices made by the founding members and extent our heartfelt gratitude to them and pay our warm tributes to those who had left for heavenly abode.
The people of Manipur and Advocates felt the extreme necessity of a separate High Court envisaged under Article 214 of the Constitution of India. The Association as an organised body rigorously demanded and persuaded for establishment of a separate High Court of Manipur. The delegates of the High Court Bar Association Manipur went to Delhi on 11-12-2002 and pursued the matter to the then Hon’ble Prime Minister and concerned authorities for establishment of a separate High Court of Manipur. In course of time, the demand became so serious that various steps were taken up by the High Court Bar Association of Manipur and AMBA. After acknowledging our genuine demands, our Hon’ble Chief Minister, Shri Okram lbobi Singh, with a keen interest took up the necessary steps to construct the present magnificent High Court building and went to Delhi several times to pursue for a separate High Court of Manipur. The representatives of the High Court Bar Association, accompanied by the Hon’ble Chief Minister of Manipur also went to Delhi and convinced the then Hon’ble Union Law Minister, the necessity for having a separate High Court of Manipur. It is the result of the concerted efforts of the High Court Bar Association of Manipur and the Hon’ble Chief Minister of Manipur, we reap the fruit by establishing the present High Court of Manipur on the 23rd March, 2013.
Effectively and conveniently, the litigants of Manipur could air their legitimate rights and demands to some extent at the door step. Against all odds, we have now a separate High Court of Manipur but we are very unfortunate in having only 2(two) Hon’ble High Court Judges including Hon’ble Chief Justice till today against 5(five) sanctioned strength. This has impeded us to assist injustice delivery system in Manipur.
The treasure of the Bar Library has been further enriched by generous donation of costly law books made by Shri Vijay Hansaria, Sr. Advocate, in memory of his beloved father (Late) Justice B.L Hansaria (retired Supreme Court Judge) and another monetary contribution of Rs. 4,00,000/- ( Rupees four lacs) made by members of a noble family of (Late) Justice N. Ibotombi Singh (retired Judge of Gauhati High Court).