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Judge takes note of fee case

Calcutta, Dec. 4: The 22-day impasse between lawyers and the government over court fee hike is likely to continue as the high court today declined to pass an interim order on a case challenging the validity of the Ordinance pending in the Assembly.

Justice Bhaskar Bhattcharya said: “I am convinced that a strong prima facie case had been made by the petitioner in respect to the enhanced court fees which is in distinct conflict with the order of the Supreme Court and while promulgating the Ordinance, all the relevant matters had not been considered by the concerned authority.”

The judge fixed the next hearing four weeks later and directed the government to file an affidavit within this period.

Zenith Credit Company had filed a case before Calcutta High Court demanding an order on the state government to withdraw the Ordinance that made court fees “exorbitant”.

Protesters shouted slogans outside the courtroom today interrupting the hearing frequently. An elaborate police arrangement had to be made to bring the situation under control.

The Democratic Lawyers’ Association (DLA), an organisation affiliated to the CPM, alleged that striking lawyers had assembled in the court to disturb the judge during the hearing.

Former secretary of the High Court Bar Association, Uttam Majumdar, said: “We had asked our members to stage demonstrations in front of the bar association room, not outside courtrooms. The DLA’s allegation is baseless and politically motivated.”

A DLA delegation met chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee at Writers’ Buildings and briefed him about the “anomalies” in the Ordinance. “We have requested the chief minister to look into the incongruent aspects of the fee hike,” said secretary Dilip Gupta.

Agitating Bar Council leaders said they had no knowledge about today’s hearing or its outcome. Council chairman A. Chatterjee said: “Our agitation will continue and the members are getting ready to hold a massive rally on December 10.”

The council has handed over its suggestions on the revision of the court fees to all political parties in the state, said Chatterjee. “I am sure all of them will speak against the Ordinance on the floor of the Assembly,” he added.

He was also hopeful that the chief minister would call the council for fresh talks.

Earlier, lawyers led by Dibyendu Biswas and Jyotipriya Mallik staged a rally at Hazra Crossing, blocking the road for half-an-hour. The Calcutta Litigants’ Forum, too, organised a rally near the city civil court in support of the lawyers’ movement.

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