Bhubaneswar, Aug. 21: Lawyers of western Odisha today resolved to intensify their agitation for a separate bench of Orissa High Court after turning down Naveen Patnaik’s plea to call truce.
“The appeal of the chief minister is not acceptable at this moment. We will intensify our agitation till our demand for a separate high court bench is met,” said Ashok Das, convener of the Central Action Committee of Western Odisha Bar Associations.
Naveen had earlier urged the agitators to allow normal functioning of government offices.
Expressing his inability to hold any dialogue at present in view of the model code of conduct in force for ongoing civic elections, Naveen assured them to hold talks in October.
“The State Election Commission has stated that having discussions at this stage will violate the model code of conduct. However, we are once again moving the Commission to allow the government to receive a delegation from the Central Action Committee. As soon as the urban elections are over and restrictions are lifted, I will call the representatives of the Committee in the first week of October,” Naveen told the state Assembly.
Not satisfied with the response, legislators of the Congress and the BJP staged a walk out. While lawyers of various districts of the region continued to paralyse functioning of government offices for the second day today and stalled filing of nomination papers for the urban polls, the political parties in Balangir district, including the ruling BJD, today unanimously decided to boycott polls.
In four districts, political parties have already decided to boycott the polls.
The State Election Commission today held a meeting with government officials to take stock of the situation and discuss ways to resolve the deadlock.
State Election Commissioner Ajit Kumar Tripathy said the district collectors of Western Odisha apprised him of the current developments.
He said: “Appropriate action would be taken.”
But he did not spell out what the commission would do if nomination papers were not filed by candidates.
Chief secretary Jugal Kishore Mohapatra and director general of police Prakash Mishra briefed the commission.
In the Assembly, senior Congress legislator Santosh Singh Saluja and other Opposition members criticised the government for dilly-dallying on such a volatile issue.
“The state government should recommend to the Centre for setting up (of a) high court bench in the region without buying time on the plea of pending Commission of Inquiry or model code of conduct. Or else, it will be held responsible for precipitating the Koshal movement in the state,” warned senior Congress MLA S.S. Saluja.
BJP legislator Jaynarayan Mishra said the government had already spent more than Rs 1.76 crore on the Justice Pal Commission over the last five years.
“If the government is serious, it should wind up the Commission and recommend the Centre forthwith to set up a separate bench for the region,” said Mishra.
Saluja said it was a popular demand that had the support of 36 MLAs of 11 districts in the region.
In Balangir, political parties and lawyers today decided to boycott the forthcoming civic polls in the district.
The demand of the Balangir unit is likely to trigger a controversy as lawyers of other districts are agitating for a high court bench anywhere in western Odisha.
President of Balangir Bar Association Binayak Mishra said Balangir had a history of having a bench of the high court during the British period. “So lawyers of other districts should support the demand for a bench at Balangir,” he said.