Calcutta High Court will be witness to a bit of dubious history next week — for the first time in 127 years, lawyers will boycott the court of a chief justice.
From Tuesday, lawyers will steer clear of Chief Justice A.K. Mathur’s court. Their point of protest — lack of amenities on the high court premises.
After a prolonged meeting on Friday, Bar Association members resolved that: “On and from April 27, 2004, the members of the association shall not prosecute any professional activity before the chief justice, whether sitting singly or in division bench, till the association otherwise resolves to do so.”
Just after the meeting, the office of advocate-general Balai Ray swung into action to try and tackle the impending crisis.
Soon, Chief Justice Mathur announced that he would go around the court premises to see for himself. So, according to the protesting lawyers, “for the first time in his four-and-a-half-year tenure”, the chief justice did the rounds of the court building, along with the advocate-general, presidents of the Bar Association, Bar Library Club and Incorporate Law Society, and some senior high court officials.
Bar Association president Sardar Amjad Ali, however, said late on Friday that the chief justice’s ‘inspection’ would not impede the boycott. “The lawyers will not attend the court of the chief justice on and from Tuesday,” Ali stressed.
At the meeting, lawyers also levelled some serious allegations against the chief justice.
Ali later said: “For the past four years, the chief justice himself has been presiding over all cases in the appeal court… Work for the judges has also been allotted disproportionately. While some judges have their hands more than full, others have nothing to do. As a result, new cases are not coming for hearing and they are simply piling up in the filing department.”
This observation, however, does not form part of the boycott resolution.
Chandi Charan De, secretary of the association, alleged that repeated appeals had been made to the chief justice demanding “basic amenities for lawyers and litigants” at the century-old high court building. “But he has not bothered to take a single step in this regard,” alleged De.
Association members have made a long list of missing amenities. It includes: “no arrangement for drinking water in court, toilets in terrible condition and no designated place to sit”.
Members of the CPM-dominated Democratic Lawyers’ Association have opposed the boycott call, but with the majority of members supporting the resolution, the association has decided to stick to its boycott call. Functioning of other courtrooms will not be affected, lawyers claimed.