In the time of British Government there is one Rajashthanik Court sitting in the premises now known as Kothi Compound at Rajkot having two British Judges and one Indian Judge. The jurisdiction of Rajashthanik Court is to be decide dispute, political nature, between two native states regarding their boundaries etc and also they have to decide dispute arising out of individual succession matter of Ruler of native states. One of the Indian judge who happened to be my Grandfather late Hakamchand K. Udani who was law graduate and formally judicial officer was then promoted as one of the Indian judge in Rajashthanik Court up to the age of his retirement.
In British India prior to independence there was court of the Judicial Commissioner whose jurisdiction was that of the present High Court. Except the first class state of Junagadh, Jamnagar, Bhavnagar and Dhanangdhra etc which were having their own High Court in rest of the native states after decision of their Sar Nyayadhish equivalent to present post of District and Sessions Judge, the appeal civil or criminal against their judgment would lie to the court of Judicial Commissioner at Rajkot. At that time important judgments given by Rajashthanik Court and the Court of the Judicial Commissioner were published in law journal known as Kathiyawar Law Reporter. My father late Shri N. H. Udani who started his legal practice in 1922 was Government Pleader and Public Prosecutor from 1935 up to the time of formation of State of Saurashtra. At that time at Rajkot there were few eminent Barrister - practicing before the Rajashthanik Court and before the Court of Judicial Commissioner and amongst them were late S/Shri Sitaram Pandit, Mashurekar, H. B. Shukla, P. L. Chudkar, Shantilal C. Shroff etc. At that time there were eminent Advocates viz. late Sarva Shri Ramjibhai Doshi, Bapubhai Buch, Chaturdas Ghelabhai, D. N. Vakil, Ugamshibhai Shah, Manilal H. Udani, Shri N. H. Udani, Shri U. N. Dhebar who then became first Chief Minister of Saurashtra. The Ruler of native states were also taking off and on advice of the aforesaid Barristers and leading Advocates for their political matters. Each native state have appointed their Advocate whose head quarter was at Rajkot and were popularly known as State Vakil. There were also court of the Civil Judges and Judicial Magistrate at Rajkot.
As far as Rajkot State Courts are concerned Advocates who happened to be native of Rajkot State and having an immovable property within the jurisdiction of Rajkot state are only permitted to practice in the Courts of Rajkot State, which courts were situated in the old Darbargadh premises of Rajkot
After independence Saurashtra High Court came into existence and the first judges of the Saurashtra High Court were S/Shri M. C. Shah who was formerly judge of the Bombay High Court and thereafter appointed as first Chief Justice of Saurashtra High Court, Barrister P. L. Chudgar and Barrister S. C. Shroff of Rajkot were also Puine judges of Saurashtra High Court and after their retirement late Shri S. J. Chhatpar and J. A. Baxi were appointed as Puine judges of the Saurashtra High Court. Senior Advocate Shri J. M. Pandya was appointed as Registrar of Saurashtra High Court. Late Shri Chimanlal Shah and thereafter Shri Anantprasad Baxi were Advocate General of the Saurashtra High Court and the said Shri Anantprasad Baxi was subsequently appointed Judge of the Gujarat High Court. At that time eminent Advocates likes late S/Shri Chimanlal Shah, Aanatprasad Baxi, Gajanand Joshi, M. P. Thakkar, U. T. Mehta, M. U. Shah, Hathi Brothers viz. late Jaysukhbhai, Kantibhai and Jayantibhai Hathi, H. P. Mankad, M. G. Sinroja, C. R. Maniar, N. H. Udani, H. A. Mehta and other eminent Advocates from Surendranagar, Jamnagar and Bhavnagar were also practicing in before High Court. It was the practice of Saurashtra High Court to encourage Junior Advocate like me S/Shri C. H. Bhimani, N. P. Doshi, M. M. Shah etc to appear and advance their arguments and for that purpose their Senior Advocates under whom they were working were advised accordingly to give chance to Junior Advocates for practice before the High Court. Subsequently, senior advocates viz. late S/Shri T. U. Mehta, M. P. Thakkar and M. U. Shah were appointed as judge of the Gujarat High Court by Gujarat Government and Shri M. P. Thakkar was thereafter promoted as judge of the Supreme Court.
In state of Saurashtra – Rajkot was its capital city. There was District & Sessions Court for each District of Rajkot, Junagadh, Jamnagar, Bhavnagar & Surendranagar. Late S/Shri P. P. Anada, N. L. Vyas, M. I. Pandya and others were District Judges. In each district there were courts of the Civil Judge Senior Division and that of Junior Division. Jurisdiction of Civil Judge Senior Division was to try suit monetary value of which is more than 10,000 and suit against Central & State Government and statutory body and also to try and decide matrimonial cases & contested cases under Indian Succession Act. The court of the Civil Judge Junior Division is empowered to try simple money suits below Rs. 10,000/- & suit arises out of Rent Act and also uncontested cases under Indian Succession Act and cases under Contract Act, etc.
In 1956 State of Saurashtra merged with Bilingual Bombay State and so jurisdiction of Saurashtra High Court ceased to exist. Thereafter, the Bench of the Bombay High Court used to come to Rajkot for 15 days in a month – Late Hon'ble Mr. Justice M. C. Chagala, V. M. Tarkunda, Vyas, S. T. Desai, K. T. Desai, D. V. Patel & others were some of the judges who were hearing the arguments of the Advocates at Rajkot Bench. At that time also the aforesaid Advocates including Junior Advocate like me and Shri C. H. Bhimani used to appear before the Bench of the Bombay High Court. Needless to say that Hon'ble Judges of the Bombay High Court were very learned and had wide knowledge on any subject of law and it was indeed a privilege for the Advocates to appear and advance their arguments before such eminent Judges. Each time on the last day of departure of the learned Judges the Rajkot Bar Association used to give them a dinner party in their honour. And at such party the learned judges used to meet each and every Advocate and have fresh and free discussion with them. This has lasted up to 30-4-1960 when the State of Gujarat came into existence on 1-5-1960.
Shri M. N. Udani