Law minister Nisith Adhikary and advocate-general Balai Roy claimed on Friday that people had begun to accept the court fee hike. As proof, they cited the 1,700 fresh cases — of them, 1,399 writ petitions — filed at the enhanced rate in the high court during the 24-day lawyers’ strike. This had added Rs 10 lakh to the state coffers.
In meetings with the representatives of the Democratic Lawyer’s Association (DLA) in the past 48 hours, Roy is believed to have claimed that it is clear from the case count that the common people can afford to pay the enhanced fee.
Minister Adhikary, Roy and Dilip Gupta, secretary of the DLA, met on Friday to review the situation stemming from the strike and work out ways to equip the government with a perspective on the issue.
The trio, although a part of the CPM’s decision-making process, appears to be taking a line contrary to chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s pledge to water down Adhikary’s initiative and work at a scaling-down of the fee.
“Apparently, the two (Adhikary and Roy) firmly believe that the government’s reading of the popular mood is not correct. They believe that the common man, visiting the court to file a case, has no problem paying the higher fee,” said an official of the law department.
For the government, the strike with no end in sight is bad news. It has brought home the fact that its own lobby, the CPM-run-DLA, does not exercise full control over the ranks, as most of its members have openly defied the whip and stayed away from the lawcourts all over the state.
A combination of factors has forced the government to change its attitude to the fee hike and decide on a downward revision. Topping the list are the opposition from an influential section of the CPM and resistance from the smaller Left Front partners, who have shown in the recent past that they will not let go of an opportunity to confront and embarrass the government.
“Buddhababu was particulary worried at the attacks from the smaller Front partners as well as the hard line adopted by a section of his own party to the fee hike. He wanted the government to take control of the situation,” the official said.
Emboldened by a section of the party stalwarts’ reservation about the fee-hike Ordinance — Jyoti Basu, Nirupam Sen, Biman Bose and Anil Biswas are believed to have resented the hurry with which it has been brought about — the DLA members have turned their collective back on the directive asking them to get back to court.
Last week, the DLA leadership had threatened to delete the names of members from the state panel if they did not attend court. At least four lawyers have been appointed by the DLA leadership to prepare a list of members attending court. On December 2, 88 members were present in court. The next day, attendance dropped to 77 and on December 5, only 57 members turned up. The DLA has at least 1,000 members in Calcutta High Court alone.