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Judge blow to strike

Calcutta, Aug. 14: Calcutta High Court Chief Justice S.S. Nijjar today defied a strike by lawyers and broke a custom of putting off verdicts.

In the absence of a single lawyer in the courtroom, the chief justice and Justice A.K. Basu went ahead to dismiss an appeal by the pensioners’ association of a private bank. The court had no jurisdiction to interfere in the affair of a private institution, they held.

Earlier, judges deferred verdicts if their dates coinci-ded with lawyers’ strikes.

Around 25,000 lawyers across Bengal observed a ceasework today, defying a December 2001 ruling of the Supreme Court that they had no right to do so.

The ceasework called by the state bar council was to protest against alleged atrocities by police and some government employees. Work suffered in 202 courts as a result. Judges were present but proceedings couldn’t take place in the lawyers’ absence.

Some lawyers, however, defied the bar council’s no-work diktat.

Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharyya, the Calcutta mayor and CPM lawyers’ leader, condemned the strike. “The bar council has no right to call a ceasework as the apex court has imposed a ban on it. Lawyers are not above the law,” he said.

Council leaders alleged that a section of jail employees were extorting money from undertrials with false assurances of getting them lawyers and released from jail.

“Allegations were coming from almost all jails. When the advocates in Diamond Harbour court protested last month, jail employees attacked the lawyers. Police did not take any step against the offenders,” alleged council vice-president Uttam Majumdar.

He also objected to the arrest of a man on a new charge, moments after being released on bail by the Alipore court. “According to norms dating back to the British period, police do not make such arrests,” Majumdar said.

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