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Judge raps absentee lawyers

A Calcutta High Court judge on Wednesday reprimanded government lawyers for failing to attend hearings of cases against the state.

“We see in most cases the state-appointed lawyers are not present in courtrooms during hearings. They come late and pray for time. But this system cannot continue forever,” Justice Dipankar Dutta said before hearing a case pertaining to an alleged police inaction.

A Howrah woman had approached the court alleging that the police have ignored repeated complaints of domestic violence against her husband and in-laws. When the matter came up for hearing on Wednesday, no lawyer representing the government was present.

“As a judge, I cannot be a mute spectator. People approach the court seeking justice. How can we provide them justice if the state lawyers do not co-operate with us?” Justice Dutta asked.

Just then, the anguished judge noticed the government pleader, Ashok Banerjee, entering the courtroom (number 15).

“You see, this is the situation. In most of the cases, the state lawyers don’t bother to be present in courtrooms during hearings. You have to take the initiative so that the state panel of lawyers attend court on time,” he told the government pleader.

“My Lord, I will see to it that the lawyers attend court on time,” Banerjee pleaded.

Justice Dutta’s remarks underlined most high court judges’ resentment at absenteeism among government lawyers.

A senior advocate said: “Lawyers get a small fee for appearing on behalf of the government. Private cases are more paying. So, they are more interested in appearing for private parties.”