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Theft outside chief justice room

A bag containing a laptop, cash and two debit cards were stolen on Friday from in front of the high court chief justice’s courtroom that had two sentries posted outside.

Thefts are often reported from the high court but even veteran lawyers failed to recall another instance of something going missing from outside the chief justice’s courtroom.

Lawyer Sudakshina Kundu, 23, had kept her bag at the foot of Sambhunath Pandit’s statue outside room No. 1 on the first floor around noon before entering the room. When she came out around 1pm, the bag was gone.

High court rules prevent litigants, lawyers and others from entering a courtroom with bags.

“I kept my bag outside and entered the courtroom like on other days. But when I came out during lunch break, my bag was missing,” said Kundu, a resident of Behala, who has been practising at the court for seven months.

Kundu said the bag contained a laptop, several legal documents, a wallet, two debit cards, a PAN card and a voter identity card.

“There were at least 30 other bags lying outside the room. Only mine was missing. I suspect someone saw me working on the laptop before I kept it in the bag and entered the courtroom,” said Kundu, who has lodged a complaint with Hare Street police station.

Another advocate, Deba-leena Mitra, lodged a complaint on Friday afternoon, stating that her Samsung Galaxy S4 smartphone was picked from her jacket pocket inside courtroom 7 on the first floor.

Mitra mentioned in her complaint that she was working on a case when she realised that her phone had been picked.

“We have received two complaints of thefts on the high court premises. It’s unlikely that the two cases are related. We will study the footage of CCTV cameras installed on the ground floor of the court. There is, however, no camera right outside the chief justice’s courtroom,” said an officer of the police station.

The officer was clueless when asked how a bag could disappear from in front of a courtroom that had two guards stationed outside.

Lawyers said the high court had witnessed at least 16 cases of theft over the past three years. Most of the cases are yet to be cracked.

Last year, advocate Subrata Mukhopadhyay had lost a bag containing legal documents and law books after he had left it on a bench outside a ground-floor courtroom.

In 2012, law books worth over Rs 40,000, belonging to lawyer Sardar Amjad Ali, had been stolen from a bench in the first-floor corridor.

“Incidence of theft has been on the rise at the high court. Cops are posted in all corridors but that seems to have failed to deter thieves from having a free run,” said lawyer Rabi Shankar Chatterjee.

He said lawyers were forced to leave their belongings outside courtrooms because of lack of space in the bar association rooms.

“We have pleaded with the chief justice several times to allot us more rooms. There are hundreds of lawyers who have no place to sit and are forced to keep their belongings in the open,” said Chatterjee.