CITY CIVIL AND SESSIONS
In 1728, under a Royal Charter, the Court of Oyer and Terminer and Jail (Gaol) delivery, came to be established in Bombay. The Court was composed of the Governor and some members of his Council, who as justices of the Peace, had jurisdiction to try all offences except high treason.
In 1798, the Recorder's Court with powers to exercise Civil and Criminal Jurisdiction, was created. In 1824, the Recorder's Court was replaced by the Supreme Court with jurisdiction confined to the town and island of Bombay. At about the same time, Diwani Adalat and Sudder Fozdari Adalat were established having superior Civil and Criminal Jurisdiction respectively over the other territories in the Presidency of Bombay. In 1861, the Indian High Courts Act passed by the British Parliament, the Supreme Court and Diwani and Fozdari Adalats, were abolished and on 26th June, 1862, letters patent were issued, establishing the High Court at Bombay.
The Old Secretariat Building (In which City Civil And Sessions Court is housed) was designed and built by architect Col.Henry St. Clair Wilkins and planner Sir Henry Bartle Edward Frere during 1865-74 . It is described as a building in the Venetian Gothic style. The Old Secretariat is one of the ancient structures in Mumbai located on the eastern side of the Oval ground. Comprising of a tall tower on a central staircase . The structure has arcaded verandahs and some fine stone carvings. It is designated as a Grade II A heritage structure.
Each year, five Sessions trial were held in the High Court. Some very famous trials including the Lokmanya Tilak trials were held here. The last Criminal Session of the High Court presided over by the Hon'ble Mr. Justice, Late R. A. Jahagirdar, commenced on 30th June, 1948 and was dissolved on 2nd July, 1948.
Simultaneously, with the enactment of the Bombay City Civil Court Act 1948 (XL of 1948), the Court of Session for Greater Bombay, came into existence. The Sessions Court was established under the powers given to the State Government by section 9 of the Criminal Procedure Code. The Sessions Court started functioning from 16th August 1948. The sessions Court for Greater Bombay, exercised the same powers as were exercised by the High Court in Session trials in respect of jury verdict. These provisions conferred on the Court of Sessions by Bombay Act 32 of 1948, were withdrawn by Bombay Act 6 of 1952 and the Sessions Court of Greater Bombay, was brought on par with Sessions Courts in the mofussils.
In a murder-trial, subsequently to the enactment of Act 6 of 1952, where the jury returned a divided verdict of 5 to 4 not quality the Addln. Sessions Judge agreed with the majority verdict of 'not guilty' and acquitted the accused. Prior to the enactment of Act 6 of 1952, the Judge had no option but to order a retrial in case of a divided verdict.
Though the Court of Sessions for Greater Bombay was shorn of the pomp and splendor of Sessions Trials held in the Majestic Sessions Hall of the High Court, the practice and procedure followed by the Sessions Court was not any different from that followed in High Court Sessions Trial. Trial by jury which was in vogue since long in the High Court and continued till the year 1948, was thereafter continued in the Court of Sessions for Greater Bombay.
In 1956, after the enactment of the Criminal Procedure Amendment Act, it was open to the High Court to dispense with jury trial if the case was likely to take up a very long time before the Sessions Court.
One of the first cases tried without jury, at the directions of the High Court, was sometime in the beginning of 1957. The case which went on for nearly three and a half months before the then Addl. Sessions Judge, B. J. Diwan (later chief Justice of Gujarat),
Several important cases attracting wide media publicity, were tried in the Court of Sessions. The Lloyds Bank Dacoity case, the Kasab Case, Telgi case, the Nadkarni Murder Case or the Kishori Trial, the Chunawalla Murder Case and Comm. Nanavati case, are some of the notable ones. The trial of Comm. Nanavati probably was the last trial by jury. The Nanavati case had all the ingredients of a thriller-sex, murder, intrigue and revenge. The case generated tremendous publicity and heat and Comm. Nanavati received a lot of sympathy. The verdict was melodramatic. The jury's verdict 'not guilty' was greeted with a loud roar of approval.
However, the Trial Judge declared the verdict perverse and referred the matter to the High Court. The High Court sentenced the accused. This led to a louder roar of protest, The Learned Trial Judge had to be taken home that night under police escort. Shortly, thereafter, trial by jury came to be discontinued in the court of Sessions.
During the time, Criminal Cases were tried by the High Court at Bombay, the High Court every year held five sessions. Under the Rules for the Court of Sessions framed by the Hon'ble High Court, the Court was required to hold Sessions every year, commencing on the dates on which the Court reopened for the X' mas holidays, the Summer Vacation and the October Vacation. However, under the present procedure, the Sessions courts continue to function even during the X' mas holidays, the Summer Vacation and the October Vacation. This has become necessary in view of the large backlog of Sessions Cases and the fact that a large number of accused persons are kept in judicial custody pending trial. During the Vacations, the Sessions Court only try cases where the accused are in custody.
Today the Sessions Court is not merely concerned with the trial of Criminal Cases. With effect from 1st April 1974 ( the date on which the Criminal Procedure Code of 1973 came into forece), appeals from orders of the Presidency Magistrates ( now Metropolitan Magistrates) which lay with the High Court, now lie with the Sessions Court for Greater Bombay, except appeals against conviction and sentence of imprisonment for a period of 7 years and above. Initially, the Courts numbering 4 were located in the High Court Annexe Building and in 1967, the courts were shifted to the Old Secretariat Building where the same are presently housed. In 1972, new annexe building was constructed. In or about the year, 1985, the major part of the Old Secretariat Building was made available to this Court by removing the Office of Inspector General of Police. Fast track Court was established at Sewree in 2003. Considering the increase in number of cases from the suburbs of Mumbai, the Dindoshi branch of Bombay City Civil and Sessions Court commenced in 2007.
The earlier precuniary jurisdiction of City Civil Court granted was Rs.10,000/- In 1950, it was raised to Rs. 25,000/- , In 1977, it was raised to Rs. 50,000/-. In September 2012, it was enhanced to Rs. 1,00,00,000/-.
The current territorial jurisdiction of Bombay City Civil & Sessions Court, Fort is from Colaba to Mahim, Colaba to Mulund and Dindoshi Branch is from Bandra to Dahisar. Cases under various special acts such as MCOCA, TADA, NDPS, CBI, SUSCA, POCSOA, SARFESI MPID, SC/ST are tried in Bombay City Civil & Sessions Court.