The law minister’s meeting with the striking lawyers failed to break the impasse on Saturday, with the Bar Council insisting that the government should first put on hold the increased court fees before any discussion on the issue.
Nearly 52,000 lawyers in 568 courts across the state have gone on a 10-day ceasework from November 13, demanding a rollback on the decision to increase court fees since November 7.
On Saturday, the Bar Council made it clear that it would review the issue to call off the strike only if the government intervened by November 20 to withdraw the directive on increased fees.
Alarmed at the deadlock continuing for the past four days, law minister Nisith Adhikari convened a meeting at Writers’ Buildings with the striking lawyers at chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s instance. An 18-member delegation from the council met Adhikari.
But the lawyers refused to call off the ceasework and stuck to their earlier stand.
“Come what may, we shall not attend court until the government restrains itself from giving effect to the Ordinance on the increased court fees,” warned Council president Amiya Chatterjee.
He said the Bar Council would meet again on November 21 to decide on its next course of action. “But we shall continue the ceasework till November 22,” he said.
A disappointed Adhikari told reporters at Writers’ Buildings that he had requested the striking lawyers to call off the ceasework keeping in mind the ordeal faced by litigants. “But what can I do if the Bar Council representatives do not listen to me'” he said.
“I even told them (lawyers) that the Ordinance had been passed in a Cabinet meeting and I had no power to withdraw it until the Cabinet changed its stand. The lawyers were adamant even after I told them that I would try my best to place their demand in the Cabinet when it meets the next time,” he added.
Adhikari said the state government was going to introduce a Bill in the coming winter session of the Assembly, beginning on December 9.
This had no effect on the Bar Council members, who reiterated during the day that they would go on a hungerstrike on Monday in front of Calcutta High Court as a mark of protest.
Saradindu Biswas, member of the Council, said they were left with no other option but to protest as the litigants could not afford to pay such “exorbitant” fees.