Case papers can be put together in a day, but destroying records can take up to four months.
Suman khendeker, the keeper of records of the Bombay High Court’s appellate side, has to go through the tattered papers of property disputes, imprisonment sentences, divorce cases, and public interest litigations before destroying everything.
And the record room in the Small Causes Court premises houses case papers dating back to 1875. “Every year, record are segregated in February and the job is completed by the end of June,” Khedekar said.
This year, Khedekar and eight other have identified 18,000 papers of cases decided and disposed of in 2003 for destruction. “Last year 21,000 records were destroyed. This year it is 18,000. Every year we destroy close to 20,000 records,” DV Savant, the high court registrar (judicial II ), said.
Wearing a surgical mask, khendekar and her staff put aside stacks of paper that go up to 4 feet. “The records are very old and dusty. A pest control team visits every six months so that the papers don’t catch termites,” Khedekar said. Preserving and destroying records is as important as preparing them for court proceedings, she said.
Records were divided into two parts. The first consisting of case papers and order passed and orders passed and the second annexure. “The first part is preserved forever which is why we have records dating back to 1875. We also look for original documents in the papers and preserve them for parties,” she said.
The record room, which was shifted to the small Causes Court premises in 2004, has 22 compactors to store the records. “Through each compactor can hold 40kg, most are overburdened because of the huge volume of records.”
Record department officials manually identify the records. “We have requested our superiors to computerise the department as that would make the work easier and faster,” she said.
The work of destroying the records is given to contractors through tenders. “ Each sheet of paper in every case has to be torn into four pieces in the court premises before sending it to the shredder,” Khedekar said. “I personally supervise the tearing of papers.”