The old Secretariat which was started in 1915. The ground floor of the Secretariat housed the Chief Court.
Glimpses of Sikkim Judiciary
On April 17, 1955, the High Court of Sikkim was established by virtue of a Proclamation, the High Court of Judicature (Jurisdiction and Powers) Proclamation, 1955 proclaimed by the then Maharaja of Sikkim who was known as the 'Chogyal'. From the records available, it can be gathered that the administration of justice in Sikkim in the last century was carried out by the Feudal Landlords (Adda Courts), Jongpons (District Officers), Pipons (Headmen) and Mandals with the Chogyal at the top. In 1909, Kazis, Thikadars and Lamas were invested with judicial power by a State Council Resolution. They could try civil suits upto the value of Rs.500/-.
The old Secretariat which was started in 1915. The ground floor of the Secretariat housed the Chief Court. It was in the year 1916, the Appellate Court designated as Chief Court was created with jurisdiction to try important original suits. The Court was exercising appellate jurisdiction over the Adda Courts. Appeals from the Chief Court would lie to the Supreme Court of His Highness the Maharaja. The Court of the Maharaja, without having original jurisdiction, was the final Court of Appeal in the state. A Board on the lines of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in England, would hear the parties and scrutinize the evidence regarding merit of the case and then render its opinion to the Maharaja.
Adda Courts were subsequently abolished in 1949 on the recommendation of the Judicial Proposal Committee. The state was divided into four Revenue Districts and accordingly Magistrates were appointed in each district with original appellate jurisdiction under criminal and civil side. The Courts of Assistant Magistrates and the Courts of Tehsildars were also created. Records speak of appointment of a Judge of the High Court of Sikkim in the year 1953 itself much before the establishment of the High Court of Sikkim in 1955.
After establishment of the High Court of Sikkim in 1955, the post of Munsif Magistrate was created in 1963 and the Chief Magistrate was vested with powers to hear appeals from all Magisterial Courts. Appeals from the High Court were heard by His Highness the Maharaja of Sikkim who exercised the prerogative to grant mercy, pardon, remission, commutation and reduction of sentence in case of conviction. The Maharaja had also retained his prerogative to set up a Special Tribunal for the review of any case, civil or criminal.
Initially the idea of an independent judiciary did not exist. Judicial procedures were free from legal technicalities and were based on the principles of natural justice. In the year 1970, a separate Munsif Magistrate was appointed for hearing civil suits.
Subsequent upon the then Kingdom of Sikkim signing the Tripartite with the Government of India and three political parties on May 8, 1973, the lowest subordinate court became the District Court presided over by a Judge. The Chief Magistrate was designated as Judge of the Central Court and the High Court of Judicature remained the Apex Court.
On the merger of Sikkim with the Indian Union by the Constitution (36th Amendment) Act as the 22nd State under Article 371(F), in 1975, the "High Court of Judicature" became the "High Court of Sikkim" with effect from April, 26, 1975.
Presently there are four Revenue Districts. Civil Judge cum Judicial Magistrates are posted in the four districts, two Chief Judicial Magistrates cum Civil Judges look after two districts each i.e (East & North) and (South & West) whereas two District Judges also look after two districts each as above.
Further the Government of Sikkim Act, 1974, which came to be passed in the Sikkim Assembly (which received the assent of the Chogyal on 4th July, 1974) in pursuance of the historical agreement of 8th May, 1973, between the Chogyal, the leaders of the political parties representing the people of Sikkim and Government of India, provided that all Judges in Sikkim shall be independent in exercise of their judicial function. In keeping with the ideal and the set goal, the process of separation of judiciary from the executive started soon after the merger. In 1978, Sikkim Civil Courts Act was passed with a view to consolidate the laws relating to the Constitution of Civil Courts subordinate to the High Court and other relevant matters. The Sikkim State Judicial Service Rules 1975 and the Sikkim Superior Judicial Service Rules 1980 were framed providing for the mode of recruitment and service of judicial officers, thereby creating a separate cadre of judicial officers in the State. Besides, the Code of Criminal Procedure 1973, which provided for separation of judiciary from thee executive was extended and enforced in the State of Sikkim in the year 1994.
The Sikkim Judiciary, hence, started functioning as an Independent Judiciary.
Honb'le Mr. Justice
Aftab H. Saikia
Former Chief Justice