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Lawyers cease work on judge apology demand

A tug-of-war between the Bar and the Bench has virtually paralysed work at Sealdah Criminal Court for nearly a fortnight.

Nearly 1,000 lawyers of the court have ceased work since June 17 to protest the alleged “misbehaviour” of an additional chief judicial magistrate (ACJM) towards them.

Though the magistrates are attending court, cases are not being heard in absence of lawyers. As a result, hundreds of litigants are being denied justice.

Agitating lawyers declared on Saturday that they would intensify the movement until the magistrate concerned, Anita Debnath, apologised to them for her alleged “inappropriate action”.

Lawyers of Sealdah Criminal Court received a shot in the arm after their counterparts in Sealdah Civil Court ceased work on Friday as a mark of solidarity.

“We are fed up with the manner in which Debnath has been behaving with us these days. She has made it a regular practice to misbehave with us on one pretext or the other,” complained Dulal Mitra, former president of Sealdah Criminal Court Bar Association. The boycott would continue until the chief judicial magistrate took action against Debnath, he added.

Court officials said trouble started on June 17 when ACJM Debnath allowed a sub-inspector of Calcutta Police to lodge a criminal case against a lawyer after 2 pm for allegedly slapping him inside the Bar Association room.

This gesture agitated lawyers who argued that the criminal court generally allowed the filing of complaints in the morning session. “But we protested when Debnath showed favouritism towards the SI by allowing him to file the complaint after the recess of the court at 2 pm. Since then, we have been agitating against Debnath’s act,” said Avijit Sarkar, a lawyer of the same court.

According to police sources, the second officer of Entally police station had gone to the court on June 17 to meet the public prosecutor. The prosecutor asked the SI to sit for a while in the Bar Association room as he was busy. The SI sat on a chair which belonged to advocate Tapan Das. But an altercation began when Das was trying to sit on the chair and the SI’s feet inadvertently touched Das’.

In the melee, Das allegedly slapped the SI twice. Stung by humiliation, he informed his superiors who advised him to file a criminal case against Das.

“The officer did not tell the truth. Actually, during the altercation, he pushed the advocate first,” said Sarkar. He also said that when Debnath was accepting the case file from the policemen, lawyers of the court requested her not to take cognisance of the case since it was lodged in the afternoon. “But the magistrate refused to listen to the lawyers triggering protest from them,” he said.

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