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Lawyers hint at breakthrough

Calcutta, Dec. 22: Minutes after a meeting with law minister Nisith Adhikary, the West Bengal Bar Council today indicated that it might consider calling off its 40-day-old lawyers’ strike following the government’s assurance that it will rollback the court-fee hike further.

The government had passed a Bill in the Assembly last week effecting a few rollbacks but the lawyers — about 52,000 in the state — were not happy and their ceasework against the court-fee hike continued.

Lawyers across the state had stopped attending courts on November 13.

Adhikary met representatives of the council and other lawyers’ bodies at Raj Bhavan this afternoon for three hours, seeking a solution to the impasse.

Sources in the council said the government had been trying to persuade the lawyers back into the courts and sent feelers through a number of eminent barristers and lawyers in the city, including Speaker Hashim Abdul Halim.

Today, Adhikary reportedly agreed to further “clarifications and modifications” in the court fee structure. Adhikary told the delegation that he would send a formal letter to the council tomorrow detailing the “clarifications and modifications”.

“We will go through the letter and if it really contains what the minister promised us at the meeting, there is a possibility that we might call off the cease-work. But, we will make an announcement only after a meeting of our executive body tomorrow,” said council chairman Amiya Chatterjee.

The council fixed the meeting for tomorrow apparently after getting a missive from its parent body, the Bar Council of India, which requested it to withdraw the agitation in view of the Supreme Court order declaring lawyers’ strikes as illegal. The council, it was learnt, will seek a review of the apex court judgment.

Chatterjee said the judicial affairs minister assured at today’s meeting that he would revise the fees relating to successions, will probates, vakalatnama, hajira and bail bonds, among others.

Apart from Adhikary, advocate-general Balai Ray and the advocate-general of Tripura, Bikash Bhattacharya, were present on the government side at today’s meeting. The lawyers were represented by the West Bengal Lawyers’ Association, the Democratic Lawyers’ Association and the council.

Chatterjee said the council was aware of how the cease-work had hit young lawyers, who had just made it to the profession.

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