LAHORE -  With the growing size of population, the Lahore High Court (LHC) has become a cramped place for lawyers and litigants. During appearance in the court, lawyers and litigants find it difficult to follow the protocols due to the cramped courtrooms and congested court premises.

The Lahore High Court, now a constitutional court, was established in the British era and had spacious courtrooms for all visitors, even though the size of population at that time was not as big as it is today.

The unique architectural design of the courtrooms of the British era with engraved and embossed walls made the building a real splendor, but the current situation is quite different. The courtrooms, except those in the row of the courtroom of the chief justice, look like a marketplace. One of the major issues now is congestion in most courtrooms due to low height of roofs. Secondly, courtrooms have too little space to accommodate the increasing number of lawyers and litigants, as compared to the courtrooms built in the British era.

A block at the court that was inaugurated by the then Chief Justice Rashid Aziz Khan in 1999 has two floors and a basement. The courtrooms in all three portions of the building have hardly 10-foot high roofs. Heavy air conditioners have been installed in these courtrooms to minimise the impact of congestion, but even then it becomes difficult to stay and breathe there during rush hours.

On the other hand, the roof of chief justice’s courtroom is around 35-foot high. It is a spacious one and has large windows. It was built more than 150 years ago, but it is catering to the needs of the lawyers and the litigants even today.

The courtrooms in front of the bar, inaugurated by the then Chief Justice Syed Zahid Hussain in June 2008, are small and cannot accommodate the growing number of litigants. Litigants even don’t find space to sit outside these courtrooms as they wait for their turn. Some officials at these courtrooms told The Nation that four courtrooms were built at the space reserved for three courtrooms.

Likewise, four courtrooms in front of the Urgent Cell were inaugurated by the then Chief Justice Sardar Muhammad Iqbal in 1974. They are too small to accommodate lawyers and litigants. It is one of the oldest blocks from the courtroom of Justice Chaudhry Abdul Aziz to the courtroom at the end of the row in front of the mosque.

At present, the LHC has 58 judges against the sanctioned strength of 60 and the administration of the court has made 44 courtrooms at the principal seat, some of them very small. A lawyer has already moved a petition in the LHC, seeking an increase in the sanctioned strength of judges to cater to the needs of the growing population. If judges’ strength is increased, there is no space for more courtrooms at the LHC.

Talking to The Nation, Lahore High Court Registrar Syed Khursheed Anwar Rizvi said it was a real issue and it had been taken up with the government authorities. “We want to acquire the land of Aiwan-e-Auqaf where we plan to shift the Administration Block,” he said. “We shall demolish the existing Admin Block and build new courts here. Negotiations with the government are under way, but it is premature to say anything about this plan,” he said.

When asked about the recently demolished buildings adjacent to the shrine of Hazrat Shah Chiragh, he said, “The land belongs to the LHC and a parking plaza will be built there for lawyers.” When asked that why the admin block was not being shifted there, he said, “The parking plaza was also need of the hour.” He said, “Space is a big issue for us and we are trying to get the land of the Auqaf department.”