In defence of Bombay High Court for Goa

By Cleofato A Coutinho
30 April 2015 18:48 IST

The entitlement of Goa to have its own High Court has never been in doubt. The mandate of article 214 of the Constitution that each state shall have its own High Court is clearly circumscribed by non obstante provision of article 231 which provides for establishing a common High Court for two or more states. When one looks at entitlement from a emotional perspective, rationality becomes a casualty.

To my mind the Bombay High Court has served us well since 1982, despite us getting statehood in 1987. Bombay High Court established in 1862 has fine traditions and high judicial standards. The imprimatur of the Bombay High Court has a great respectability and acceptability in legal and judicial circles in the country. It is certainly a privilege to share the most distinguished High Court in the country which has a large pool of judges (sanctioned strength being 75) competent in different fields of law like taxation, corporate, labour etc. which facilitates constitution and changes in benches from time to time. The benches are normally changed after eight weeks making them dynamic and avoiding any development of vested interests. We are told that even small states like Sikkim have their own High Courts. The smaller states of Sikkim, Meghalaya, Tripura and Manipur have the judge strength of three including the Chief Justice leaving no scope for change in benches.

For a long time now visiting judges from Bombay have given path breaking judgements in all fields of laws giving a definite shape to law and justice in Goa. Scrutiny of judgements reveals that most of them were possible due to the visiting judges. Even on local laws their application of mind and judgements of some of the Bombay Judges have been well appreciated. This is not to say that all judges from Bombay deserve the pedestal. I am placing them on. But there is always a hope that in the next eight weeks that there shall be fresh air.  That hope keeps the faith in the system going.


We are a small state and the smallness has its own advantages. It has enabled us to excel in the per capita human development indicators. It could be a ideal state to control the docket numbers. Smallness also has its disadvantages. However the closeness and proximity of families to those in power and the powerful in this small states raise serious issue of fairness and justice. The ‘uncle-nephew-cousin-friend’ syndrome is good for social harmony but comes in the way of sustaining public confidence when it comes to litigation and judicial adjudication. It is not that Goans cannot come up to the level of expected standards of integrity free from prejudice and bias. Some of our Goan High Court Judges have exhibited competence and earned public confidence both in Goa and at Bombay. However public confidence is largely governed by public perception and it is here that the litigants, legal fraternity and the general public who would be wearing caps of doubt and discomfort. In most cases the High Court becomes last court due to the prohibitive cost of litigation at the Supreme Court of India. The last court must be the one in which at least there is public perception of justness. This is not to remotely suggest that judges from outside the state are above board without exception. However they tend to inspire confidence in this small state which is richly endorsed with family and friendship bonds. The distance from where they come seem to blur the shortcomings both in the area of competence and integrity. This particular problem of confidence could certainly be dealt with if there is an all India cadre.  

The Goa bench has earned trust and confidence of the litigants and the bar. Issues like ‘Goykarponn’ culture and language are issues that can certainly be taken care of under the present arrangement. The arrears of cases can only be dealt by competence not numbers or change in system.  The present arrangement of the Goa bench of the Bombay High Court on a cost benefit ratio and considering certain shortcomings is currently the best system and must continue in the larger interest of Goa.

Disclaimer: Views expressed above are the author's own.

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Cleofato A Coutinho

Cleofato Almeida Coutinho is a senior lawyer and one of the constitutional expert in Goa. A member of Law Commission of Goa, he also teaches at Kare College of Law in Madgao.

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