The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Lawyers threaten strike over fee hike

The West Bengal Bar Council has threatened a statewide movement against the government’s decision to hike court fees. Several legal associations have condemned the move and requested chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee to withdraw the “illegal and arbitrary” decision within a week.

Uttam Majumdar, chairman, executive committee, state Bar Council, said on Thursday that the government had raised the court fee and stamp duty by five times the present rate.

“This will create a major problem for the poor litigants,” he said, adding that the members of the Council had already appealed to the chief minister to withdraw the order within seven days. “We have no option but to organise a statewide movement against the decision,” Majumdar said on Thursday. Lawyers from every sector were against the hike, he claimed.

Dibyendu Biswas, executive committee member, Bar Council, said: “The lower courts will definitely be hampered by the decision.” Former chairman of the Bar Council Bidyut Kiran Chatterjee said the method resorted to by the government in announcing the Ordinance was “an insult to the members of the Council. The government should have discussed the issue with the Council before taking the decision.”

Council members said the government had not even sent a copy of the Ordinance to the office till late on Thursday. “We came to know about the developments from the newspapers,” said Ashok Dev, state representative, Bar Council of India.

Several other organisations, including the West Bengal Lawyers Association and National Lawyers Council (NLC), have raised their voices against the Ordinance. “The bankrupt government has imposed another burden on the poor people,” asserted Idris Ali, president, NLC.

Though the government had declared that the Ordinance raising the court fee would come into effect from November 7, a copy of the order had not reached any of the courts till Thursday. So, the litigants filed cases during the day on old rates.

Friday sit-in

The West Bengal Bar Council will hold a dharna in all the 202 courts of the state from 1 pm to 2 pm on Friday to protest the introduction of permanent lok adalats by the Centre.

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