The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Buddha clears talks table with lawyers

Alarmed at the increasing public harassment due to the continuing lawyers’ strike, the government on Monday started working towards a fresh dialogue with lawyers’ lobbies on resolving the impasse over the court fee hike.

Senior officers indicated during the day that chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee has decided to hold talks with the lobbies on the possibility of scaling down the fee hike within the next few days.

Nearly 52,000 lawyers in 568 courts across Bengal have been on ceasework since November 13, much to the chagrin of a huge number of people who seek legal redress every day.

“This is a definite indication that the current impasse will be resolved, as Bhattacharjee himself wants to meet us following a request from Chief Justice of Calcutta High Court A.K. Mathur,” said a key functionary of the Bar Council.

Though the law minister has maintained that the “contentious issue” might be discussed at the upcoming winter session of the Assembly, “we want to hear from none else than the chief minister about the possible revision of the court fee hike.”

As part of the exercise, law minister Nishith Adhikari held a marathon meeting with state advocate-general Balai Roy at Writers’ Buildings during the day. Minutes after the meeting, Adhikari was learnt to have asked his officers to write to Council chairman Amiya Kumar Chatterjee, requesting him to attend an upcoming meeting at Writers’ for a fresh discussion on the court-fee hike. He asked them to make a concrete proposal on the possible changes in the Ordinance concerning the fee hike.

“We cannot withdraw an Ordinance already enacted, but the issue can be discussed for a review when it is placed in the Assembly, beginning December 9,” Adhikari said.

In a related development, Chief Justice Mathur summoned some Bar Council representatives to his high court office during the day and told them that he could not help intervening in the matter, since it involved “the plight of common litigants across Bengal”.

Earlier, lawyers called on Assembly Speaker Hashim Abul Halim, seeking his intervention in the matter. Halim was learnt to have given them a copy of this year’s budget, which could help them prepare a concrete proposal. “We are happy that Halim Saheb, himself a lawyer, sympathetically listened to us for over half an hour,” said a Council member.

Trouble erupted in Sealdah court during the day, when some members of the CPM-affiliated Democratic Lawyers’ Association (DLA) wanted to enter the courtroom in defiance of the striking lawyers. At least two DLA members, who insisted on joining work, were injured.

Lawyers, who decided to continue the agitation, organised a rally in front of the chief metropolitan magistrate’s court on Bankshal Street. They did not allow vans carrying undertrials to enter the court premises.

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