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Lawyers extend strike

Calcutta, Dec. 11: With the controversial court fee hike Bill slated for discussion in the Assembly tomorrow, agitating lawyers have decided to extend their ceasework for two more days to create pressure before it is made into an Act.

This is the first time that the West Bengal Bar Council has extended its agitation for a short period ever since lawyers went on strike from November 13. The council members will meet again on Friday to decide their course of action.

As a result of the strike called by the lawyers, 80 per cent of 18,000 under trials have not got bail and their numbers are increasing in the state’s prisons.

Bar council chairman Amiya Chatterjee said today members were not happy with the rate of decrease in the court fees — as indicated in the Bill circulated among legislators — and that there were several anomalies in various items in the Bill.

Chatterjee said the council was sending its suggestions on the “disputed” items to the legislators. “We are requesting the MLAs of all parties to raise a united voice against this anti-people Bill,” Chatterjee said.

He alleged that fresh court fees have been introduced in restoration and substitute cases. “In these cases, the fees have been hiked upto 100 times,” he said. He also alleged that the government had not reduced the fees for filing of writs and vakalatnamas, which affirms the identities of litigants.

“We have sought the opinion of the members in general and almost all of them are in favour of continuing the movement till the Bill is discussed on the Assembly floor,” he said, adding that the agitation would put more pressure on the government while the Bill was being enacted.

Chairman of the council’s executive committee Uttam Majumdar said the government still had time to realise the problems of the common litigants and revise the Bill further. “In some specific items, further revision is needed and the government has the opportunity for a rethink,” he said.

A large number of lawyers today assembled outside the office of the state bar council, raising slogans on the sidelines of the executive committee meeting. The demonstrators also roughed up a reporter of the Ananda Bazar Patrika while he was going to attend a press conference.

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