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Striking lawyers claim CM sympathy in rebuff

Calcutta, Dec. 8: CPM state secretary Anil Biswas’ statement criticising the lawyers’ ceasework has drawn a sharp response from the state bar council.

In a statement yesterday, Biswas called the movement “unethical and illogical”. He also appealed to the lawyers to immediately withdraw their strike.

However, council chairman Amiya Chatterjee today slammed Biswas. “A democratic movement by a statutory body for the interest of the general public should not be termed as unethical,” he said, without naming the CPM state secretary.

Chatterjee added that chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee had agreed that the lawyers had reasons to agitate at a meeting with the council members.

“If the chief minister finds reason behind the movement, how can it be termed as illogical'” Chatterjee asked.

The council chief also took strong exception to the term “julumbazi (coercion)” that was used by Biswas.

“A section of the agitating lawyers is preventing those willing to join duty. Eta julumbazi. (This is coercion),” Biswas had said.

An angry Chatterjee today said: “I am asking the person to cite an example where our members have indulged in coercion.” “It is a threat to the agitating lawyers,” he added.

Chatterjee said the council consists of at least 171 bar associations across the state and, in many places, they have taken independent decisions to organise separate movements against the Ordinance that hiked the court fees.

“We have not asked our members to join any movement,” Chatterjee claimed. He also said the council had no links with the clashes that broke out at the protest rallies organised by the association members.

Mantu Pal of the Pradesh Congress Lawyers’ Cell and Kalyan Banerjee of the Trinamul Congress’ forum for lawyers condemned Biswas’ statement.

“It is a threat. The CPM is trying to end the ceasework by applying muscle power but the lawyers are united. We are not bothered with the small number of Democratic Lawyers’ Association members who are trying to defy the ceasework call,” said Pal.

The DLA is a lawyers’ forum affiliated to the CPM.

A Trinamul lawyers’ cell spokesman said they would ask party chief Mamata Banerjee to call a Bangla bandh to protest the Ordinance. “Even if a Bill is passed in this regard, we will challenge it before the court of law,” he said.

Jails across the state continued to bulge today as prisoners could not be released in the absence of lawyers. They could not be set free on personal release bonds either as lawyers were required to stand guarantee.

The council members will hold a rally in the city on December 10.

“More than 15,000 lawyers are expected to march to the Assembly that day,” said Uttam Mazumdar, a council executive.

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