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Turn-up call to govt lawyers

Calcutta, April 25: The judicial department has sent a missive to all public prosecutors, government pleaders and panel lawyers to attend cases in time as their frequent absence from courts is resulting in a severe pile-up.

The note comes after Writers’ Buildings was flooded by letters from district judges pointing at the poor attendance of government lawyers and advocates.

Matters came to a head last week when the sub-divisional judicial magistrate of Burdwan passed a stricture on government prosecutors and panel lawyers. S.D. Brahma directed them to appear in court on time and added that their cases would be resolved on an ex parte basis if they didn’t.

Brahma had arrived in court at 10 am last Thursday and had to sit around till 12.30 pm as no cases could be heard in the absence of the government lawyers. Frustrated after a few fruitless hours, which stalled some serious cases concerning bail petitions, Brahma read out the four-page stricture.

A similar incident occurred in the court of the district judge in Howrah. He, too, expressed dissatisfaction in the open court over the reluctance of the government lawyers to attend their designated cases.

With such incidents recurring at regular intervals, the state judicial department has planned to shuffle the panel lawyers and prosecutors. It is also carrying out a survey of the lawyers’ attendance and, if need be, some of the panels will be disbanded.

“When I took over as the advocate-general of Bengal, I had to hear a lot of similar complaints concerning our lawyers in the high court and city courts. But we took measures so that our lawyers attended their cases on the dates they came up for hearing,” said Balai Ray.

Lawyers who would report non-attendance of their colleagues and appear on behalf of an absent lawyer when required were posted in the high court and the city courts, said Ray.

Sources in the state judicial department, however, said the reluctance on the part of the prosecutors and panel lawyers to appear in court stemmed from the fact that they were, till very recently, very irregularly paid by the government.

Moreover, the amount they received as retainership and for each appearance was very nominal, pushing them to take up private practise.

A senior judicial department official said unless the remuneration was increased to a “rational” level, it would be very difficult on the part of the government to pressure the lawyers into attending courts.

The state judicial services is contemplating a training course for panel lawyers, especially those in the districts. Punctuality and the need to get cases disposed of would form an important part of the curriculum, said officials.

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