A consummation that was devoutly wished for ~ for the past 50 years ~ has attained fruition. The inauguration of a Calcutta High Court bench in Jalpaiguri has by any reckoning been a milestone in judicial history. The occasion is profound not merely for the district in itself but no less for the region in the wider canvas. In the net, justice will be brought to the “doorsteps of people of Jalpaiguri, Alipurduar (carved out of Jalpaiguri), Cooch Behar, Darjeeling and Kalimpong (carved out of Darjeeling) districts”, as the acting Chief Justice, Biswanath Somaddar, had occasion to boast amidst the grandstanding. It is a measure of the people’s interest in the High Court Circuit Bench that hundreds of people watched the ceremony on giant screens that were installed at different intersections of the town. It is a benchmark too of the importance that has been accorded to the swathe of several districts, collectively referred to as North Bengal. The culmination of a spirited movement by the people has met a happy end. The opening of a secretariat in Siliguri ~ Uttarkanya ~ has now been reinforced with the Circuit Bench. Both are critical totems intended to spur the development of North Bengal. Verily has a dream come true. As much was underlined in the message advanced by the Chief Justice of India, Mr Ranjan Gogoi ~ “The operationalisation of the High Court’s Circuit Bench will be another step in the direction of bringing the justice delivery system closer to the doorsteps of the litigants.”

For it is the people who will be the chief beneficiaries of this judicial endeavour, one that has taken inordinately long in coming. It bears recall that though the demand stretches back to 50 years, the proposal was first mooted in 1988, during the heyday of the Left Front. Which makes it pretty obvious that the feet-dragging continued for three decades. Hitherto, litigants had to travel for 600 km to Kolkata in search of justice and/or settlement at Calcutta High Court.

That ordeal will now be over with the Circuit Bench functioning since 11 March. That it witnessed two inaugurals, driven by a competitive search of brownie points before an election, ought not to militate from the importance of the event ~ pre-eminently the North Bengal address of the historical institution that was once referred to as the High Court in Calcutta. The first inaugural was by Prime Minister Narendra Modi through video-conference and the second by the Governor, the acting Chief Justice, and the Chief Minister. The Circuit Bench is much too important for a bout of strained federalism. Now that it is in place, it is fervently to be hoped that it will lend impetus to growth and development of North Bengal.