Permanent Bench of Orissa High Court, Where?
There has been a long-standing demand for a permanent bench of the Orissa High Court in Western Odisha. That demand gained momentum ahead of the urban local bodies in Odisha, as most regions, barring Padampur, decided to boycott the polls. Interestingly, there is a tussle between Sambalpur and Balangir over which town will get the final nod for a permanent bench. If that was not enough, many other towns such as Bhawanipatna, Balasore, Baripada and Jeypore joined the chorus for a permanent bench of the Orissa HC, making mockery of the initial demand.
In Western Odisha, no nomination papers were filed in Balangir Municipality, Patnagrh NAC, Kantabanji NAC, Titilagarh NAC, Junagarh NAC, Khariar Road NAC, Bargarh Munipality, Barpali NAC, Deogarh Municipality, Brajrajnagar Municipality, Jharsuguda Munipalicity, Sambalpur Municipality, Kuchinda NAC, Binka NAC, Hirakud NAC, Biramitrapur Municipality, Rajgangpur Municipality, Sundargarh Municipality, Subarnpur Municipality and Tarbha NAC due to poll boycott in support of the demand. Only Padampur NAC defied the trend and joined the polls. Only 13 nominations each filed in Bhawanipatna Municipality and Kesinga NAC. Only three nomination papers were filed in Khariar NAC, while just one person filed the nomination in Rourkela Municipality. The SEC later cancelled the polls in 12 Municipalities and 13 NACs in nine districts of Western Odisha.
Looking at the broader scenario, If we look at the broader scenario, we have 24 High Courts in India, which have just 14 Permanent Benches – the Bombay High Court (Mumbai) – Nagpur, Panaji and Aurangabad, the Gauhati High Court (Guwahati) – Kohima, Aizwal and Itanagar, Madhya Pradesh High Court (Jabalpur) – Gwalior and Indore, Karnataka HC (Bengaluru) – Hubli-Dharwad and Gulbarga, Calcutta HC (Kolkata) – Port Blair, the Madras HC (Chennai) – Madurai, Rajasthan HC (Jodhpur) – Jaipur. Even the Allahabad High Court (Allahabad), which lies in a big state like Uttar Pradesh, has just one permanent bench in Lucknow.
Despite this fact, there is a demand for at least 4-5 permanent benches in Odisha. Is the demand real? Such an unusual demand, may only sabotage the claims of Odisha rather than getting a rapt attention. The Odisha Government led by Naveen Patnaik has already made it clear that it would recommend a permanent bench of the HC in Western Odisha and some other places too. If longer the list, the higher the chances of rejection, making the status quo prevail.
However, neither the state government nor the Centre can take things for granted. Out of all regions that demand a permanent bench of the HC, Western Odisha definitely leads the pack in a strong way. They have already used their trump card – demand for a separate Kosal state. They still cite the promise of then Union Law Minister Veerappa Moily, who had assured them of a permanent bench in Sambalpur. If their demand for a permanent bench is not met, they would push harder for a separate state, making things difficult for the political parties and governments. It would be interesting to see how Naveen Patnaik handles this crisis, which has already triggered a Constitutional crisis because of the poll boycott by all political parties in Western Odisha.