The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Court impasse on last leg
- Ordinance amendment Bill to be tabled on Thursday

Calcutta, Dec. 10: Buoyed by the government’s decision to halve the hike in court fees, the striking lawyers today hinted that they would call off their agitation by Thursday, when the Bill to roll back the raise is slated to be tabled in the Assembly.

Going by indications, the lawyers would return to the courts on December 13.

More than 50,000 lawyers had ceased work in 568 courts across the state from November 13, demanding a rollback in the court fee hike.

The Business Advisory Committee of the Assembly met today and fixed Thursday for a three-hour debate on the Bill. The Opposition and the treasury benches will get one-and-a-half-hours each to voice opinions on the proposed amendment.

The West Bengal Bar Council organised a rally at Esplanade today to protest against the Ordinance hiking the court fees. More than 10,000 lawyers, including many from the far-flung districts, marched towards the Assembly.

Lawyers, one after the other, patted themselves at the rally, claiming that the government had to reduce the hike bowing to pressure from “our 28-day-old ceasework”.

Addressing the gathering of upbeat lawyers, Amiya Chatterjee, chairman of the Bar Council, said: “We have achieved a partial victory by carrying on with the ceasework for 28 days. But there is no scope for complacency as we will have to continue the protest against some anomalies in the Bill.”

Chatterjee was interrupted more than once by loud cheers.

Dibyendu Biswas, an executive member of the council, said the government had to climb down under “mounting pressure from us”. “There would have been no rollback in the court fee hike had we returned to work after hurriedly calling off the agitation,” said Biswas.

The council has convened an emergency meeting tomorrow to discuss its course of action.

However, from the signals that came out today it was apparent that the lawyers were set to take a decision on resuming work from Friday.

“We have a feeling that the government is giving a serious thought to the demands for revision in the court fee hike. So, it is unfair to aggravate the agitation,” said a key functionary of the council.

A delegation of lawyers from the council submitted a memorandum to Speaker Hashim Abdul Halim after the rally. They also met leader of Opposition and Trinamul Congress MLA Pankaj Banerjee and members of several other parties, including partners of the ruling Left Front, the Congress and the SUCI.

They called upon the legislators to oppose the Bill “tooth and nail” when it comes up for discussion on Thursday.

Trinamul members had earlier staged a walk-out from the House along with the SUCI after the Speaker refused to allow a discussion on the fee hike. The Congress legislators demanded an adjournment motion on the matter after question hour.

Banerjee and Atish Sinha of the Congress promised the delegation that they would protest against the hike on Thursday.

The Trinamul leader also asked the lawyers to carry on with their agitation till Thursday. “This will create extra pressure on the government and our fight against the legislation in the Assembly will gain momentum,” he said.

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