Cholchhey, cholbey (It’s on, it’ll carry on). The message conveyed by the two-and-a-half-hour-long emergency meeting of the state Bar Council on Friday held out no hope for all those waiting for the month-long lawyers’ ceasework to end. The protest campaign against the court-fee hike has now been extended till December 20, with lawyers accusing the government of “deception” and the government accusing lawyers of “violating a Supreme Court ruling”.
The decision to carry on with the strike was taken under pressure from members of almost all Bar Associations across the state. Even as Friday’s meeting was in progress, several lawyers stood outside, shouting slogans and threatening violence if the ceasework was withdrawn.
Amiya Chatterjee, chairman of the Council, later alleged that the government had “deceived” the lawyers by ignoring their suggestions while passing the Bill on the court-fee hike. He said a meeting on December 19 would decide the next course of action.
Council executive committee chairman Uttam Majumdar said: “Our members have been insulted by the attitude of the government. Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, too, did not keep his promise. We have no option but to continue our agitation.”
State law minister Nisith Adhikari said at Writers’ Building that the agitating lawyers were violating an order of the apex court. “The Supreme Court had ruled that the Bar Council had no right to call strikes,” he said, before appealing to the lawyers to return to work.
But there was no sign of that on Friday. Hundreds of lawyers belonging to subordinate courts as well as Calcutta High Court Bar Association demonstrated outside the Bar Council office, while the executive committee deliberated on withdrawing the strike. “We are ready to fight till the end. The government should understand that the lawyers are united,” the agitators shouted.
Most executive committee members of the Council were, apparently, in favour of withdrawing the strike but carrying on with the protest against the court-fee hike. “But the adamant attitude of the general members compelled us to continue the ceasework,” said a key Council functionary, adding that the situation could have spun out of control if the “voice of the majority” had not been heeded.