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Madras HC denies request to install portrait of Dr. BR Ambedkar, rules that only Gandhi and Thiruvalluvar portraits/statues allowed in courts in Tamil Nadu

The HC has categorically directed, that, from now on, the district judiciary can only display the portraits or statues of only Mahatma Gandhi and Saint Thiruvalluvar. Except for their statues/portraits, no other statues and pictures can be displayed anywhere inside the court premises.

Recently, the Madras High Court again rejected various representations that requested to install the portrait of Dr. BR Ambedkar on the court premises. In the wake of these repeated representations seeking permission to install portraits or statues of national leaders or senior advocates, the Registrar General (in charge) of Madras High Court issued a circular on the 7th of July regarding this issue. 

Through the circular, the District Judiciary has been informed about the resolution of the Full Court of Madras High Court. The HC has categorically directed, that, from now on, the district judiciary can only display the portraits or statues of only Mahatma Gandhi and Saint Thiruvalluvar. Except for their statues/portraits, no other statues and pictures can be displayed anywhere inside the court premises in Tamil Nadu. 

The circular reads, “Very recently on the 11th of April 2023, the Hon’ble Full Court considered a similar request (installation of portraits of Dr. BR Ambedkar), and reiterating all the earlier resolutions (supra), unanimously resolved that except the statues and portraits of Mahatma Gandhiji and Saint Thiruvalluvar, no other portraits and pictures shall be displayed anywhere inside the Court premises.” 

The circular added that all Principal District Judges/District Judges/Principal Judges/District Judge-cum-Chief Judicial Magistrate of the Districts and the Chief Judge, Puducherry have to strictly adhere to these resolutions of the Madras High Court. Further, they have been directed to take action by giving suitable complaints to the Bar Council of Tamil Nadu and Puducherry in case of the violation of the High Court resolution.

In the circular, the Madras High Court highlighted that it had received representations from various advocate associations asking permission to unveil portraits of Dr. Ambedkar and senior advocates of the association concerned. 

Multiple resolutions in the past directed the same

The court asserted that these issues had been considered by the Full Court of the Madras High Court on multiple occasions be it in 2008, 2010, 2011, 2013, 2019, and very recently in April 2023.

As per the circular, on the 22nd of October 2008, the Full bench of Madras High Court rejected the request of Tamil Nadu Dr. B.R Ambedkar Advocates Association. They had sought permission to install the portraits of National Leaders in all court halls in the state. 

Later, on the 11th of March, 2010, the Madras High Court took notice of incidents wherein statues of National Leaders were damaged. This led to friction as well as a law and order situation. Additionally, there were demands to install statues of different political leaders at different centers including court campuses. 

Consequently, in response to this, the Full Court once more ordered that there should be no further installation of statues at any of the Court campuses, be it in Chennai or Madurai, District Courts or Taluk Courts, or any other Court premises subordinate to the High Court.

The Full Court again reiterated this resolution on the 20th of April, 2011. The Court resolved that no statue would be permitted inside court premises. 

Afterward, on the 27th of April, 2013, the Full Court directed the Principal District Judge, Kancheepuram to press the Alandur Court Lawyers’ Association to remove the portraits of BR Ambedkar installed at the entrance hall of the newly constructed Combined Court Building. Additionally, the High Court also rejected the request submitted by Cuddalore Bar asking to display the portrait of Dr. BR Ambedkar in the newly constituted special courts. 

The Full Court of Madras High Court again reaffirmed these resolutions in their meetings conducted in December 2013 and 2019, and the most recent resolution was passed in April 2023. 

During the April 2023 meeting, it was resolved that only portraits and statues of Mahatma Gandhi and Saint Thiruvalluvar would be permitted inside the court premises except for their portraits or statues, other portraits or statues have to be taken down.

Lawyers to stage protest

Now, a section of lawyers have expressed their strong dissatisfaction against this direction of the Honourable High Court. Apparently, they have planned to stage a demonstration outside the campuses of the High Court and the district courts across Tamil Nadu and Puducherry on Monday, 24 July 2023. 

Reportedly, they have been demanding the withdrawal of the High Court circular dated 7th of July and asked for permission to install portraits of other national leaders and senior advocates of the concerned bar councils. 

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