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Buddha date boost for lawyers

Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee has agreed to meet Bar Council representatives on Friday, fuelling hope that differences over the court-fee hike will finally be ironed out and a solution found to the impasse that has paralysed the legal system in the state for the past 17 days.

Amiya Kumar Chatterjee, chairman, Bar Council (West Bengal), said during the day that he had received a fax message from Sailesh Mukhopadhyay, private secretary to the chief minister, saying that Bhattacharjee will meet a delegation of the Bar Council in his Writers’ Buildings office on November 29.

Metro had earlier indicated that the chief minister, “alarmed at the increasing public harassment due to the continuing lawyers’ strike, has decided to hold talks with the lawyers’ lobbies on the possibility of scaling down the fee hike within the next few days”.

Law minister Nisith Adhikary had earlier urged the lawyers to get back to work, but to no avail.

Bhattacharjee’s decision to meet the lawyers comes in the wake of public statements from Left Front allies like the CPI, RSP and the Forward Bloc, that the government should immediately discuss the matter with Bar Council members, now that an Ordinance has been enacted.

“We hope a positive outcome will emerge from our dialogue with the chief minister. We shall request him either to withdraw the Ordinance that has hiked the court fees or to hold it till the Assembly reopens and the proposed discussion on court fees can be carried out on the floor of the legislature,” said the Bar Council chairman.

An 18-member delegation of the Bar Council met Governor Viren J. Shah on Thursday to submit a petition, demanding his immediate intervention in the matter. “We earnestly request Your Excellency to utilise your good office so that the Ordinance in question is withdrawn forthwith... or to keep the same in abeyance,” said the petition.

State Bar Council chairman Chatterjee said a delegation of the Bar Council of India also met Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee in New Delhi on November 26, and urged him to ask the Bengal government to resolve the issue as soon as possible.

In a spin-off of the impasse, jails and social welfare minister Biswanath Chowdhury, on Thursday, expressed concern over the sudden increase in the number of undertrials in jails.

“In the lawyers’ absence, the arrested persons are not getting bail, and the number of undertrials in the jails have swollen. There are 15,000 prisoners in my jails already, whereas the capacity is just over 18,000. We are facing infrastructural problems,” he added. Chowdhury held a meeting with senior jail officials to review the situation.

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