Centre for Judicial Archives of Odisha and

Museum of Justice

The case records of the High Court of Orissa include the old judicial records of three other High Courts: at Calcutta, Patna and Madras. They also include records belonging to erstwhile High Courts of the princely states of Mayurbhanj, Sonepur and so on. In 2021 after the establishment of the RRDC, efforts were begun to streamline the preservation of old case records both in the High Court as well as in the four District Courts in Sambalpur, Balasore, Cuttack and Ganjam. In the process, documents dating back to the early 19th century were discovered, which were in a reasonably readable condition, though fragile. A sampling of these documents gave valuable insights into the functioning of the judiciary and of the problems brought before the courts during those times.

This led to conception of an idea of having a project for documenting the judicial history of Odisha. Possibility of making the records available to the researchers and scholars was thought of. However, the treasure-trove of historical information contained in the records required careful physical handling and treatment using the latest scientific techniques before the information was properly identified, collated, preserved and made accessible for research. Simultaneously, revamping of the museum of the High Court in Cuttack was mooted for showcasing the heritage and history of the judiciary in Odisha.

The Chief Justice wrote to the Chief Minister on 25th March, 2022 for support of the State Government in establishment of a Centre for Judicial Archives, revamping of the Museum of Justice and financial, infrastructural and personnel support for the judicial history project in general. The Chief Minister by letter dated 2nd April, 2022 assured support of the State Government in the project. (Appendix-M)

Centre for Judicial Archives

The Centre for Judicial Archives was established on 1st May, 2022. At present, the Centre is functioning in the Record Room Digitization Centre with a laboratory and a research centre where conservation of fragile records and the records of historical importance is underway. The State Government has made available Ac.1.884 dec at Sector-1, CDA, Cuttack for construction of a separate building for Centre for Judicial Archives. The High Court Building Committee accepted plan and estimate of Rs.34,89,55,743/- for the project. The State Government has accorded administrative approval and made provision of funds for commencement of work.

As a prelude to the establishment of Centre for Judicial Archives, a workshop on ‘Archival Management and Preservation of Archival Records’ was held on 9th April 2022 at the Odisha Judicial Academy in Cuttack in which resource persons from the National Archives of India, the Raja Muthiah Library, Chennai and the Piloo Modi College of Architecture, Cuttack shared their expert ideas in the field of archiving. Archival management, records management, preservation of records, digitization and appraisal of records were discussed in the workshop.

Design of the proposed building for the Centre for Judicial Archives

By a notification No. 14380 dated 1st May, 2022 of Home Department, Government of Odisha, the Centre for Judicial Archives of Odisha was set up with the posts of Directorcum-Officer on Special Duty, Consultant (History), Consultant (Law) and 4 posts of Law Researchers. (Appendix-N) The posts of support staff were also subsequently created by the State Government. Dr. Lalatendu Das Mohapatra, the former Deputy Director, National Archives of India, New Delhi was nominated as the Director-cum-Officer on Special Duty and he assumed charge on 10th May 2022. The Centre has undertaken -

Cataloguing and archiving the fragile records of the High Court till 1950

Scientific preservation, upkeeping, cataloguing and digitization of those fragile records

Facilitating consultation of those records to the bona fide scholars by creating proper logistics and infrastructure

Compilation of the Judicial History of Odisha

Supervision and upgradation of Museum of Justice

Overseeing and advising the District Courts on archiving of fragile records.

The old fragile records are being preserved by scientific method by experts in conservation work engaged by INTACH. After preservation, the records are being digitized. Most of such records contain Persian manuscripts which are proposed to be translated by a Persian scholar. As of 31st December, 2022, 9537 records have been catalogued, 768 records preserved and 201 records consisting of 3755 sheets have been digitized. This work is taking place at the conservation laboratory setup in the RRDC by INTACH. It is proposed to shift this entire work to a separate building to be constructed for that purpose.

Treatment and Preservation of fragile records in the conservation lab setup by INTACH at the RRDC

Museum of Justice

The Museum of the High Court was set up in 2017 in the former official residence of the Chief Justice of the High Court of Orissa within the Barabati Fort complex. It was set up with some photographs of legendary legal luminaries of Odisha, former Chief Justices of the High Court of Orissa, papers and collections of Shri Madhusudan Das and a few artefacts, furniture and articles used in the various district courts in Orissa. After it was decided to upgrade the museum, the work was entrusted to Indian National Trust for Cultural Heritage (INTACH).

It was considered necessary to gain knowledge of the working of a sampling of museums and libraries in the country in order to adapt their best practices for the Museum of Justice.

Accordingly, visits were undertaken to a few museums outside Odisha to observe their practice and policy of conserving and showcasing documents and objects of historical value.

The Chief Justice Dr. S. Muralidhar along with Justice Sashikanta Mishra and Dr. Lalatendu Das Mohapatra, Director-cumOSD visited the Alipore Court Museum, the Victoria Memorial and the Police Museum in Kolkata. They also visited the Bihar Museum, the Patna Museum, and the Madras Museum Chennai. Besides, Justice Mishra and Dr. Das Mohapatra visited National Museum in New Delhi.

Dr. Das Mohapatra visited the Courts in Berhampur, Aska, Puri, Bhadrak, Balasore, Mayurbhanj, Keonjhar and Dhenkanal to survey their fragile records, artefacts and other antique objects which may be useful for the museum. Photographs of all their objects have been taken and shared with INTACH for their further study.

The work of collection of documents and artefacts and information from the variety of sources is underway. The renovation work of the Museum of Justice is in progress. The upgraded Museum is scheduled to be inaugurated in the first quarter of 2023.

Judicial History Project

For compilation of Judicial History preliminary works towards retrieval of information have been taken up.

One of the core areas from which relevant data for the project are to be collected are 14,271 (1813-1950) fragile records of both civil and criminal cases of the High Court (in Persian, English, Odia and Bengali languages) to which subsequently 33,480 files from different judgeships have been added till date. At present 47,751 files adorn the shelves of the archives out of which 8,708 files have been provisionally catalogued so far.

The Consultant (Law) has prepared a bibliography of 27 books and one journal concerning the judicial and constitutional history of India so far in the High Court library. This job is still in progress.

38 judicial files relating to Paika rebellion and Quit India Movement have been selected so far from Odisha State Archives for retrieval of relevant data for the project.

665 fragile records having 13,065 sheets have been preserved so far by the INTACH. Of this, 101 files having 1,706 sheets have been digitised.

High Court Museum before renovation

Odisha Judicial Academy