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Lawyers’ strike hits court proceedings

Cuttack/Sambalpur, April 27: Proceedings were disrupted in Orissa High Court as lawyers continued their cease-work today demanding immediate withdrawal of cases registered against members of the Sambalpur Bar Association.

Eighteen lawyers were arrested in Sambalpur yesterday for allegedly manhandling district collector Mrinalini Darswal and ransacking her official residence on April 23.

Darswal has urged the State Commission for Women to intervene in the case. The commission’s chairperson Jyoti Panigrahi has said she would send a fact-finding team to inquire into the matter. The lawyers were also accused of assaulting the district sub-registrar on the same day.

The lawyers, on the other hand, accused the district collector of misbehaving with them and using abusive language.

The lawyers, who had boycotted the high court proceedings during the post-lunch session yesterday in protest, abstained from attending court today.

Several litigants were affected, as the lawyers did not attend court proceedings for the day.

The court could not proceed with Balangir-based archer Ardhendu Narayan Behera’s petition for contempt proceedings against former state excise commissioner Sudarshan Nayak for non-compliance of court order related to sale of country liquor in polythene packs in 21 districts.

“The court was to decide on the question of framing contempt charges against him for non-compliance of order for enforcement of guidelines issued by the excise department in 2009, as Nayak had already filed his reply to a showcause notice,” Behera’s counsel said.

When Nayak was excise commissioner, the high court in its order issued on November 3 last year expected him to ensure enforcement of the guidelines that made mandatory the mention of name of manufacturers, strength of the liquor, quantity of liquor and code number identification mark of the shop approved in the poly packs along with statutory warning.

Nayak was transferred and posted as director in the general administration department on February 13 after the Cuttack and Khurda hooch tragedy.

More than 400 cases listed before different benches of the high court could not be taken up for hearing. More than 65 bail applications could not be taken up for hearing. Several leftover cases from the weekly list drawn up on Monday also went without hearing.

The court also could not proceed with Durmila Sahoo’s petition seeking a CBI probe into death of her son Nabhagana Sahoo (chairman of Hindol block panchayat samiti) on May 14 last year.

Secretary of the High Court Bar Association Piyush Mishra said: “Our future course of action will be decided on Monday after submission of a report by a fact-finding team of our association.”

The cease-work by lawyers also disrupted court proceedings in criminal courts, civil courts, board of revenue, state administrative tribunal, central administrative tribunal and debt recovery tribunal in Cuttack.

In another development, a team of the state crime branch police has arrived at Sambalpur to investigate into the April 23 tussle between the collector and lawyers.

An eight-member team met the local superintendent of police and additional superintendent of police.

Sources said the team had visited the office of the district sub-registrar also. Yesterday, the police had arrested 18 lawyers based on the complaint lodged by the collector and district sub-registrar. However, the lawyers were later released.

A fact-finding team, led by the High Court Bar Association president Jayanta Dash and head of All Odisha Lawyers’ Association Dharanidhar Naik also visited Sambalpur today.

The visiting team condemned the April 23 incident as “unfortunate” and demanded a judicial inquiry into it.

The lawyers of Sambalpur also decided to stage a demonstration in front of the office of the revenue divisional commissioner tomorrow demanding arrest and suspension of the collector. The members of Sambalpur Bar Association also decided to observe Lawyers’ Day as “black day” by wearing black badges.

On the other hand, the government employees of Sambalpur district, who had resorted to cease-work demanding action against the lawyers, have decided to resume work from today.