The old Nagpur High Court building, India - now a colonial ''national'' monument - to be restored soon

old High Court building  Nagpur, India

In the colonial era, soon after the Indian subcontinent came under the direct control of the Crown Administration in London, many judicial courts came up to deal with more  civil cases in particular. There was a need for a court in the Central Province, so, the old High Court building  came up in 1891-93  in Nagpur, then capital of the Central Provinces and Berar,  to house the Judicial Commissioner’s office. However, in 1936, the Judicial Commissioner’s office  was closed for some reason. The government took a decision to house the High Court in this building. After the  High Court had moved over to the new building in 1940, this came to be known as  the Old High Court Building.

old judicial nagpur

Damaged corridor of Nagpur old High court

This old two-story  building dating back to roughly 123 years was built in Indo-European style and  is architecturally, a unique edifice in this part  then with porticoes on three sides, thick big walls, high arcaded veranda, arched wooden doors and Doric columns with little ornamentation. Unfortunately, because of neglect and lack of maintenance  often referred to as  ''official apathy'', it has fall into disuse and much of the building is in a dilapidated condition. The historic old High Court building is situated on a land in a prime locality, covering 18,228 sq. meters.

Nagpur, India, location

Responding to several representations from the public and heritage enthusiasts,  as usual, after a prolonged delay last year in June 2017  Union Ministry of Culture on Wednesday, finally, declared the old High Court building in Civil Lines as a national heritage monument. Yet another good news is the ASI -Archaeological Survey of India finally came around and in December, 2018, declared this building as a monument of National importance.  It will be the first ancient monument of national importance in Nagpur. Now, it is included in the list of more than 3,650 ancient monuments, archaeological sites and remains of national importance  dotted across the country. Surprisingly, the  notification came only in the wake of  the order of the Nagpur bench of Bombay High Court, on March 26, 2017  recommending  demolition of the unused old canteen block within the premises of the historic old High Court building within 48 hours. The purpose was  for creating additional parking space for lawyers and litigants visiting  Nyay Mandir and Suyog building. The Director  General of of the ASI, after following the provisions of the Ancient Monuments & Archaeological Sites and Remains Act (AMASR), 1958 protecting monuments, sites and remains of national importance, gave a two-months’ public notice for inviting objections, if any in this regard. Final notification was issued in July 2017 under Sub-Section 3 of Section 4 of the AMASR Act.

architect Norman Shaw

Above image: Norman Shaw, (born May 7, 1831, Edinburgh, Scot. -died Nov. 17, 1912, London, Eng.), British architect and urban designer important for his residential architecture and for his role in the English Domestic Revival movement............

High Court Nagpur, India  fine British architecture

It is quite interesting to note that these monuments spread across India in different locations, belong to different periods, ranging from the prehistoric period to the colonial period. They include temples, mosques, tombs, churches, cemeteries, forts, palaces, step-wells, rock-cut caves, and secular architecture as well as ancient mounds and sites which represent the remains of ancient habitation. Likewise, there are 981 World Heritage monuments which include both cultural and natural wonders, and endowment that is shared by all mankind and the protection of which is the concern of the entire mankind. These include 759 cultural, 193 natural and 29 mixed properties in 137 state parties.

Damaged old High Court building, Nagpur.

Above: Nagpur branch of Bombay High Court building, MH: Described as the 'poem in the stone' by its architect about six decades ago, the structure still retains the old majestic look. the creamy white building was in contrast to the greenish Seminary hills in the back drop. 

Damaged old High Court building, Nagpur.

The ASI with various regional circles has an authority over all these  monuments - the research and  conservation activities, while the Science Branch with its headquarters at Dehradun is taking care of chemical preservation and the Horticulture Branch with its headquarters at Agra is responsible for  the laying out gardens and environmental development on these sites. Normally, repairing and restoration works get over delayed as three departments located in three different places  are involved and it takes time for them to arrive at a consensus  with respect various projects.

Presently, the old High court building is unsafe for occupation and the ASI is using part of the building.  The foundation stone was laid on 9 January 1936 by the governor of Central Province (CP) in the presence of the Chief Justice of the high court Judicature of Nagpur
 Sir. Gilbert Stone. However, on 6 January 1940 formal inauguration was done  by the then Viceroy and Justice Stone. The Central Provinces Band plated ''God save the King''  in the site opposite to the proposed building followed by speeches by the Viceroy and the Chief Justice. The building  was designed by architect Medd Shaw and the work was done under  Sardar Bahadur Shohba Singh. It was constructed by one  Bhagwant Singh and the total cost of construction was Rs. 10 lakhs - a huge sum in those days.

 Designed on the lines of the Allahabad High Court building, the length of the structure is 410 feet, width 210 feet  and height 50 feet with 8 courtrooms.(according to old  old records) after CJ Sir Stone's retirement,  Sir Frederick Grille, Bar-at-law became the CJ. After India's independence, the honor of being the first CJ of the Nagpur High court went to one Sir Vivian Bose in 1948. In February 2011 this historic building of  the Nagpur bench of the Bombay High court celebrated its Platinum Jubilee on completion of 75 years.

Nagpur branch of Bombay high court.

''The Hitavada'', the local newspaper dated 20 December 2018 reported that the Custodian of the cultural heritage sites of our country - the ASI had begun in earnest  the repair and restoration of the old high court building in Nagpur by removing  the new partitions, etc ., added in the recent past. Efforts are underway to take care every aspect of the old structure to get it back its old beauty and splendor.  The old HC building is the first ancient monument of national importance in Nagpur. Now, it figures in the list of more than 3,650 ancient monuments, archaeological sites and remains of national importance across the country.  Out of these, 955 have been identified as places of worship in the country.

The ASI is contemplating the following work: Removal of  damaged and decayed plaster without damaging the original structure, use of special  brick masonry wall in lime, cleaning of rusted steel parts by sand blasting, replacement of old Mangalore tiles with new ones, careful fixing of  paneled or paneled and glazed shutters for doors, windows and clerestory windows, etc. in needed places, will be fixed wherever necessary, providing lime concrete and sand stone flooring  wherever required, etc.