The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Bandh bench to hear protest cries

Calcutta, Nov. 18: With two bandhs round the corner and petitions piling up, Calcutta High Court today created a separate 'jurisdiction' to hear bandh-related cases. In other words, a bench dedicated to hearing such cases.

The decision has come four days before the November 22 bandh called by the CPI-ML (Liberation). The Trinamul Congress has called a bandh on December 3.

High court sources said the move was necessary as more than 50 petitions against bandhs and strikes have been filed in the court and they have 'assumed critical importance' in the state.

Acting Chief Justice A.N. Roy today empowered the division bench of Justices Pratap Kumar Roy and Jyotirmoy Bhattacharya, which is hearing the petition filed against yesterday's bandh called by the SUCI, to function as the 'special bandh bench'. The new jurisdiction will be mentioned tomorrow in the daily cause list, which states the cases to be taken up for hearing on a day.

'Setting up of a separate bench to deal with bandh-related issues is very significant,' said Justice Bhagabati Prasad Banerjee, a former judge of the high court. 'Since bandhs have become a matter of such concern in the state today, the move is aimed at addressing the issue without any delay so that it gets the importance that it deserves.'

Advocate Supradip Roy, the first to file a case against a bandh called by a political party in 1997, hailed the decision as 'very significant' as it would put all bandh-related cases on the 'fast track' and 'streamline the process'.

'Earlier, bandh-related cases used to be sent to different benches and various judges had differing opinions,' Roy said. 'Now, a bench dedicated to dealing with bandhs will ensure consistency in the judgments.'

Jurists said bandh-related cases 'would assume a different perspective' after the high court yesterday threatened to recommend cancellation of the SUCI's registration. The special bench, they added, would 'play a pivotal role in shaping the conduct of political parties in future'.

Justices Roy and Bhattacharya have already set a precedent by directing the state government to deduct salaries of all employees who did not report for work yesterday.

Earlier, after Roy's petition in 1997, Justice Shyamal Sen had declared a bandh called by Trinamul illegal. He said no political party had the right to ask people not to join work on a particular day. The judge later modified his ruling to say that no political party had the right to obstruct vehicles from plying and stop people who were willing to go to work.

Court officials said the first hearing of the special bench will be on November 22, the day of the CPI-ML bandh.

While the court has cracked the whip, the CPM-dominated Coordination Committee of Government Employees and Associations slipped in a cheeky shot. The committee said while the court imposed a penalty on government employees staying away from work, it has done nothing about its own staff, most of whom were absent yesterday.

While Writers' Buildings recorded 90 per cent attendance, only 40 per cent of the high court's employees turned up.

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