Demand Gains Ground For Preservation Of Heritage Court Complex In Odisha’s Berhampur

Berhampur: With Odisha government deciding to demolish the 180-year-old heritage building of the SDJM Court complex in Berhampur, people from different walks of life have demanded its conservation to turn it into a museum or law archive.

The old SDJM court complex to be demolished consists of SDJM court, CSI office, Hazat, Post Office, GBA office and library building and office room for 27 notaries. Many trees, which are more than 100 years old, will also be felled.

Minati Rath, president of Ganjam Bar Association (GBA) and Siba Narayan Sahu, secretary said a multi-storey building has been planned on 10,000 square feet area to accommodate a Health Care Centre, notary chambers, advocate sitting room, library, conference hall and other facilities.

The CSI office, post office, Hazat in the old SDJM court complex have already been shifted to a temporary structure in front of the ADR building. A temporary shed is under construction to accommodate the notaries there.

“We have been asked to vacate the old SDJM court complex subsequently. But we are yet to see the building plan, its estimation, time limit for construction of the new building and most of the members of the GBA are still confused though the GBA passed a resolution on November 14 to vacate the heritage complex. Though most of the members are willing to accept the development plan, most of them insist on rehabilitation prior to demolition,” they said.

The Council Body of the GBA will be convene an urgent meeting in a day or two to discuss and finalise next course of action, they said.

Former president of GBA Kapileswar Patnaik said 25 acre of land was allotted at Tulu village, 23 km from Berhampur, to establish a Judicial Academy by the state government. But the government has now made up its mind to set up the Judicial Academy in the G+3 new building by demolishing the old SDJM Court building complex.

Historically speaking, the SDJM court building in the Ganjam Bar Association (GBA) office building complex was established in 1844. Zilla and Sessions Court was functioning at Chicacala and the Judge was designated as Civil and Sessions Judge.

In 1865, a permanent Zilla Court functioned in Ganjam and H Morria Esq was the first Civil and Sessions Judge. Then Madras Civil Court Act, 1873 was enacted and the designation of Zilla Court became the District Sessions Court and accordingly the Civil and Sessions Judge was re-designated as District and Sessions Judge.

During British rule, the trial of many freedom fighters was conducted here. Sahid Laxman Nayak, who was hanged to death in Berhampur Circle Jail, was tried here.

Judicial luminaries of Berhampur including Bachu Jagannath Das and Lingaraj Panigrahi served as Chief Justice of Orissa High Court. The first Barrister of Odisha, Biswanath Mishra, also practised in Berhampur. Former President VV Giri and his illustrious father Jogaya Pantulu were also groomed as advocates in this court and left their footprints in the GBA building, said Anantaram Kar Koundinya, a researcher and member of GBA.

Many senior advocates, historians and researchers, educationists have also supported the demand to protect the heritage court complex. Under the Ancient Monument and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act of 1958, the heritage complex should be protected, they said.

Deepak Patnaik, an advocate engaged in law practice for 37 years, said the case records of century old cases, the historical table of the Trunk Murder Case and many other documents need preservation.

“The building structure of the old SDJM court complex must be declared as a heritage site. Protection of the 180-year-old building, preservation of the historical document and opening of the museum would inspire the young and budding advocates in Berhampur and make them feel proud of a glorious past. Instead of demolishing it, we can convert it to a museum on the line of the High Court,” he said.

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