Lawyers will stay away from Calcutta High Court till Tuesday to protest the government’s move to allow the city civil court to hear petitions related to financial disputes of up to Rs 1 crore.
Till now cases involving disputes of up to Rs 10 lakh are heard by the city civil court. The ones concerning disputes in excess of that is heard by the high court.
Though the ceasework is till Tuesday, the court will open only on Thursday as Wednesday, being Janmashtami, is a holiday.
The protest — the Supreme Court had in 1996 banned strikes and ceaseworks by lawyers — will inconvenience litigants as over 3.5 lakh cases are pending in the high court.
The ceasework has been called by the association of barristers at the high court, the Bar Library Club, and supported by the association of advocates, the Bar Association.
A bill seeking to amend the city civil court act and empower the court to hear petitions on disputes of up to Rs 1 crore will be tabled in the Assembly on August 26.
“The government did not consult us before taking the decision to amend the act and increase the pecuniary jurisdiction of the city civil court, So we have decided to observe ceasework till August 27,” said Pramit Roy, the secretary of the Bar Library Club.
Sources said the Mamata Banerjee government had decided to amend the act following a long agitation by city civil court lawyers.
“The ceiling of Rs 10 lakh is unrealistic following an exponential rise in the prices of real estate and other assets. Besides, the high court is bogged down with so many cases…. The government has taken the right decision as it will reduce the high court’s work load,” said a city civil court lawyer.
High court lawyers, however, said the lower court did not have “adequate infrastructure” to hear and dispose of “high value” cases.
The lawyers at the high court said they would continue with their protest till the government reviews its decision.
“On Thursday we will sit again and decide whether to continue with the ceasework or not,” said Pranab Dutta, the Bar Association president.
A section of Trinamul-backed lawyers in the association refused to join the ceasework when the barristers approached the group for support. A majority of the members, however, voted to join the ceasework.
At 4.30pm, the association president went to Chief Justice A.K. Mishra and informed him about the ceasework.
“Sorry, I can’t help. We the judges will sit as usual. If any lawyer turns up, cases will be heard,” said Justice Mishra, who had earlier voiced his reservations about ceasework at the high court.