The territory of Goa is situated in the West Coast of India and bathed by two great rivers, the Mandovi and Zuari. It was under the sway of Kadambas dynasty, later the territory came under Yadavas of Devagari and then under the dynasty of Adil Shah of Bijapur. The Portuguese conquered Goa in February 1510, lost it and reconquered it in November of the same year. Goa continued under the Portuguese till it was liberated in December 1961.
When Albuquerque conquered Goa in 1510 A.D. the administration of Justice was vested in village communities. In the early days of Portuguese rule, justice was dispensed by a judicial functionary called the ‘Ouvidor Geral’ who exercised both civil and criminal Jurisdiction in the settlement. In 1544, a High Court presided over by a Chancellor was organized under the Appellation of the ‘Relacao de India’ having its seat in Goa but its Jurisdiction extending over all the Portuguese positions in the East. Hence one can say that the original Tribunal de Relacao was founded in the year 1544. It had Five Judges in the Bench at the time of Liberation. The same was replaced by intervening judicial Commissioner’s Court which had lesser power than High Court. The Judges of the High Court were known as ‘Desembargador’ subsequently several alterations were effected in its constitution. In 1774 it was abolished and again an ‘Ouvidor Geral’ was solely invested with the powers conferred upon and exercised by this defunct Tribunal. Appeals would be heard necessarily by bench of not less than three Judges. There was no practice at the level of the High Court for appeals heard by one Judge.
However these arrangements came to close in 1776-1778 when it was superseded by the aforesaid High Court. The High Court had four Judges and one Mortabagar (an official with the authority to put a seal). This Tribunal was completely reorganized in 1836.
Each parish was superintended by a Justice of Peace whose duty was to arbitrate between litigants in civil suits excepting those affecting the interests of minors, lunatics etc. Against the decision of Justice of Peace an appeal lay with the court of judge of higher jurisdiction called ‘Juiz Ordinario’. The office of the Justice of peace was honorary.
In every Julgado, a sub division of a ‘Comarca’ there was one Juiz Ordinario. He had full Jurisdiction over certain Civil and Criminal suits and against these decisions no appeal could be made to any tribunal. He made preliminary investigations in regard to those cases which were heard by a ‘Juiz de Direito’. The rank of Juiz de Direito was identical with that of District Judge in the other parts of the country. Supervision over the above Judges was entrusted to a High court (Tribunal de Relacao) which was located at Nova Goa. It is to be noted that from the trial court (then called as Comarca court) appeal would lie to the Tribunal de Relacao. During this period comarca courts exercised criminal together with civil Jurisdiction. There was no District Court in between, in the hierarchy.
In the High Court, the Advocate General used to represent ‘Ministerio Publico’ and he was also the Judicial Magistrate.
Appeal against the decisions of the lower court lay with the High Court of ‘Comarca’ as also to the High Court at Panaji. In some cases appeals against the decisions of High Court at Panaji could be made to the Supreme Tribunal at Lisbon. The Jurisdiction of the High Court at Panaji extended over Macao and Timor.
Prior to the Liberation of the territory the subordinate courts were known as ‘Comarca’ courts and ‘Julgado’ Courts and the highest court was the ‘Tribunal de Relacao’ situated at Panaji. Appeals would be heard necessarily by a bench of not less than three Judges. There was no practice at the level of the high Court for appeals heard by one judge. The Tribunal the Relacao was abolished and a court of judicial commissioner was established for the district with effect from, December 16, 1963 under the Goa Daman and Diu (Judicial Commissioner’s Court) Regulation 1963. The Judicial Commissioner’s Court was the highest court of appeal and revision for the Union territory. The court of Judicial Commissioner was to be a court of record and was to sit at Panjim or any other place or places as the Judicial Commissioner with approval of the Administrator from time to time. The language of the Judicial Commissioner’s court or of subordinate’s court was to be the same language used in these courts prior to commencement of the Regulation or English. When Judicial Commissioner’s Court replaced Tribunal de Relacao, the problems of High Court equivalence surged. Hence the Goa Daman and Diu Judicial Commissioner’s Court (Declaration of High Court) Act 1964 was passed.
The High Court of Bombay (Extension of Jurisdiction to Goa Daman and Diu) Act, 1981 was passed by the Indian Parliament in order to extend the Jurisdiction of High Court at Bombay to Union Territory of Goa, Daman and Diu and establish a permanent bench of Bombay High Court at Panaji, while abolish the then existing court of Judicial Commissioner. The High Court Bench at Panaji was commissioned on 30th October 1982. The Act provided for the establishment of a permanent bench of the Bombay High Court at Panaji with at least two Judges nominated from time to time by the Chief Justice of that court. Rules relating to procedure and conduct of cases before the court of Judicial Commissioner in force immediately before abolishing it were to apply mutatis mutandis to the proceedings before the bench of High Court of Bombay sitting at Panaji, subject to the power of the High Court to repeal them. In absence of any provisions in the rules followed at the court of Judicial Commissioner, the Bombay High Court (Appellate Side) Rules 1960 were to apply to proceedings before the bench. After liberation of Goa, when colonial laws were sought to be replaced by the national laws, the family laws were not touched upon.
With the passing of Goa, Daman & Diu Re-organization Act, 1987 by the Parliament conferring Statehood to Goa, the High Court of Bombay became the common High Court for the states of Maharashtra and Goa and the Union Territories of Dadra & Nagar Haveli and Daman & Diu w. e .f. 30-05-1987.
As per the rules of business i.e. chapter XXXI Rule 3 subject to saving provisions spelt out in Rule 4 of the Bombay High Court Appellate Side Rules, 1960, jurisdiction of Panaji Bench covers the all appeals, applications references and petitions including petitions for exercise of powers under Articles 226 and 227 arising in the State of Goa which lie to the High Court of Bombay at Goa.
1. Gazetteer of Union Territory (Goa, Daman and Diu) District Gazetteer Part 1: Goa
2. Legal Systems in Goa Vol. 1 Judicial Institutions (1510-1902) By Carmo, D’Souza
3. Civil Code in Goa translation by M.S. Usgaonkar, Senior Advocate.
4. Glimpses of Family Laws of Goa ,Daman and Diu edited by Libia Lobo Sardesai
5. Website of High Court of Bombay at Goa; www.hcbombayatgoa.nic.in (History page)