| Members of the Bhubaneswar Bar Association picket in front of the district and sessions court premises to demand shifting of the high court to Bhubaneswar. Picture by Sanjib Mukherjee |
Bhubaneswar, Aug. 29: The western reaches of the state are already on the boil over a permanent bench of the high court there. Today, a storm of a similar sort brewed outside the district and sessions court.
Members of the Bhubaneswar Bar Association disrupted court work and staged a demonstration there demanding the shifting of Orissa High Court from Cuttack to Bhubaneswar.
The lawyers blocked national highway No. 203, which connects Cuttack and Puri, for more than an hour for the same reason and said the agitation would continue tomorrow.
Asked why they had decided to press for this demand now, secretary of the bar association Prasanna Parida said members of the association had agreed this was the perfect time because of the ongoing agitation in other parts of the state where lawyers have been demanding permanent benches of the high court.
“We had made our representation before the Justice Chitta Ranjan Pal Commission, which had been set up in March 2008 to assess the feasibility and desirability of establishing a permanent bench or circuit bench of Orissa High Court anywhere in the state. We have been pressing for our demand time and again and this is the right time to demand shifting of the high court to the state capital,” said Parida.
The advocates said that in all other parts of the country, high courts were located in the state capitals (with the exception of Allahabad High Court in Uttar Pradesh), except for Odisha.
“Shifting of the high court from Cuttack to Bhubaneswar has been a major demand of the bar association here for a long time. In the early 1990s, the government had tried to move the high court to the state capital, but had failed. We want the high court to be shifted here now,” said president of the Bhubaneswar Bar Association Santosh Choudhury.
The lawyers later held a meeting at the bar association hall where they decided to strike work tomorrow as well. “We will submit a memorandum to the government with regard to our demand,” said secretary Parida.
Court work was disrupted because of the agitation as the lawyers locked the gates of the district and sessions court premises, preventing the entry of court staff and litigants.
“I came here from Sambalpur to appear as a witness in a burglary case. Since court was not held today, I will have to come again when it is,” said Naresh Rout, who is originally from Jatni but stays in Sambalpur now.
Many others, who had come for court work today, had to share Rout’s fate. The strike prevented the hearing of around 500 cases listed in around 20 courts on the Bhubaneswar court premises.
Even work at the sub-registrar’s office, which is located on the court premises, was affected. As advocates blocked the road, police diverted vehicles headed for Puri through the road connecting Bhanja Kala Mandap and BJB College and the road in front of the Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation office. Vehicles coming from Puri were diverted near Ravi Talkies.
Sources said that earlier, a PIL filed in the high court had questioned the competence of the state legislature to enact a law to move the high court from Cuttack to Bhubaneswar and the executive power to direct shifting.
The PIL seeking an order to restrain the state government from taking any decision in the matter was filed after the state law minister made a statement on the floor of the Assembly that the government had decided to move the high court.
The high court held that the petition was premature as no law had been enacted and the advocate general said it was a mere “passing thought”.