|Patna City civil lawyers carry out work under Mahatma Gandhi Setu. Picture by Nagendra Kumar Singh
Seated on plastic chairs in front of broken wooden tables, around 200 lawyers provide services to their clients as the mighty Mahatma Gandhi Setu runs overhead.
After the authorities concerned failed to provide a permanent space to carry out work, the lawyers at the civil court of Patna City sit under the bridge to deal with their clients.
The risk involved: Hundreds of vehicles plying above their heads, scorching heat, sudden shower, no restroom, and above all the lawyers lack dignity.
“Clients don’t take us seriously. They think we are good-for-nothing lawyers, who will definitely lose the legal battle,” said a lawyer who has been practising for decades and has been sitting under the Setu for a year now.
The civil court of Patna City was shifted to Gai Ghat in 2001. During that time, the district administration had provided a space under the Mahatma Gandhi Setu temporarily to the Patna City Bar Association.
“But even after 12 years, we are being forced to sit under the bridge because the government has not provided us any permanent accommodation to carry out our work. A building on the court campus with three rooms was allotted to us but that’s not enough,” the lawyer said.
Only 40 lawyers sit in the three rooms. The rest are therefore forced to sit under the bridge.
“I fail to understand why is the Bar association not taking any initiative regarding a permanent space? There is a lot of politics in the Bar association. Some handful of lawyers, who have been provided space in the building, treat us very badly because we sit under the bridge. Don’t we deserve respect? Have we committed a crime by choosing this profession? The state has an unconcerned attitude towards lawyers. Why can’t the government provide us a building where we can sit and practise?” asked another lawyer of the civil court.
Ajay Shankar Lal Jamuar, a lawyer at the civil court said the Bar association cannot make arrangements for the accommodation of the lawyers.
“The state government has to take the initiative. The Bar association doesn’t have funds to make arrangement for the accommodation of the lawyers. It is the job of the state government. When the government constructed the civil court building, why couldn’t they construct a building for the lawyers too? The Patna City civil court is not the only place where you can see such poor condition of lawyers. The same situation prevails across Bihar. Be it a district court or any other lower court, everywhere lawyers are sitting in the open space,” he said.
Speaking about their problems that they face under the bridge every day, Jamuar said: “Our documents get drenched whenever it rains. During summers, heat waves make our lives miserable. And above all this, we always fear that if any day the bridge comes tumbling down we might have to lose our lives.”
If any step is being taken in this regard, Deepak Kumar Gupta, the general secretary of the Patna City Bar Association said: “In June 2012, a delegation from the association had met then deputy chief minister Sushil Kumar Modi and had submitted a memorandum. We had asked for a permanent building and a library. Modiji sent us a letter the same day we approached him in which he stated that he had instructed the law secretary to take steps for the construction of a permanent building and a library. It has been more than a year but we are yet to get a permanent building and a library. We are helpless now.”
On any development regarding the issue, Vinod Kumar Sinha, the secretary, law department said: “We are working on a plan to construct a permanent building and a library for the Bar association. I can’t say how far it has progressed.”
The lawyers are, however, on vacation at present because of the Puja. They will resume work on October 19.