The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Justice only for those in lock-up

Calcutta, Nov. 13: The Calcutta Municipal Corporation has snapped your water connection; CESC has cut your power line; you need a lawyer’s help to move a petition for bail. Wait till November 23.

The first day of the 10-day state-wide ceasework, called by the West Bengal Bar Council, claiming to represent the interests of 52,000-odd lawyers, was as total as could be, with work in the 568 courts — including Calcutta High Court — coming to a grinding halt.

Only the magistrate courts worked because under law it is mandatory to produce arrested people before a court within 24 hours. These cases, which include bail petitions, are the only ones being heard in courts across the state.

Today, besides judges and court officials, the only people present in the courts were those representing themselves and a few lawyers belonging to the CPM-affiliated Democratic Lawyers’ Association. But even these cases were adjourned; the lawyers representing the opposition were absent.

Support for the strike grew with the Incorporated Law Society, an association representing solicitors’ firms, joining the call given by the bar council. The Ordinance raising court fees was “uncalled for” and the quantum of the hike was “inordinate”, general secretary Pulak Das said.

The acting chief justice of Calcutta High Court, T.K. Roy, has convened a meeting with lawyers’ representatives tomorrow.

But as of now, a solution does not seem in sight. Both chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and law minister Nisith Adhikari said there was no question of going back on the Ordinance.

“The strike has not been called in the litigant’s interest,” Adhikari said. The common litigant has realised that the hike was long due, he added.

Bar council president Amiya Kumar Chatterjee, too, stuck to his guns. There was not even the remotest possibility of the organisation withdrawing the ceasework if the government did not show signs of a rethink, he said.

“We are asking all political parties, including the CPM, to stand by us,” he added.

The only person who could have mediated to break the impasse, advocate-general Balai Roy, ruled out any dialogue with the striking lawyers.

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