The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Party whip irks truant lawyers

Democratic Lawyers’ Association (DLA), the CPM-affiliated organisation of advocates, is a house divided. While a large section of lawyers under the DLA umbrella is still ready to defy the diktat of its leadership and continue with the ceasework, others are feeling the heat of party pressure, and are clearly uneasy over the stalemate.

As the lawyers’ forum grapples with the dilemma, a few leaders have sought the intervention of the state law minister.

The majority of DLA members, defying the order of the leaders, are not attending court, leaving daily attendance at a meagre 10 per cent.

Among notable absentees are former standing council member Samar Dutta, former government pleader Subodh Ukil and Tapan Dutta.

The DLA convened an urgent meeting on November 20 to review the situation created by the ceasework call given by the West Bengal Bar Council demanding withdrawal of the Ordinance by the government hiking court fees.

Advocate-general Balai Ray, government pleader Rabilal Moitra, public prosecutor Kazi Safiullah, Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharya and Dilip Gupta were present at the meeting.

All the speakers urged the members to attend courts during the ceasework. The government pleader “threatened” the members, saying it would be impossible for the organisation to keep in touch with those who disobey the diktat of the Association.

One of the members said though he was a panelled lawyer, he had not received any brief from the government yet and asked the leadership why he needed to come to court. Moitra told him that even members without cases will have to be present in court. “Moitra’s ‘threat’ has created a commotion among lawyers,” said a member.

According to the leaders of the Association, DLA currently has nearly 1,000 members in the high court alone. “Ten per cent of the members are coming to court,” said a lawyer.

A senior member of the organisation said he had never experienced “disobedience” on such a large scale. “The members are openly criticising their leaders and the law minister, which was inconceivable in our time,’’ he said.

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