Calcutta, Dec. 12: The Court Fee (Amendment) Bill, 2002, was cleared by the Assembly today in the absence of the Opposition Trinamul Congress and Congress members who staged a walk-out demanding its withdrawal.
Left Front partners RSP and Forward Bloc, who had also demanded the withdrawal during today’s discussion, however, supported the government later.
Agitating Bar Council leaders have convened an emergency meeting tomorrow to review their decision to persist with the month-old ceasework to protest the court fee hike.
Speaker Hashim Abdul Halim said the state should ensure that justice reached the litigants as it was now claiming higher fees. “When the litigants are paying higher fees, the government should give more effort to dispose of matters as early as possible,” he said.
The Speaker urged the council members to return to the courts as their movement was not serving the purpose of general litigants. “Due to the movement by the lawyers, the poor are suffering,” Halim said.
The House witnessed pandemonium before the Congress and Trinamul legislators left for the day as their proposed amendments to the BIll were rejected. The screaming Opposition members demanded an “immediate” withdrawal of the anti-people” Bill. They tore apart papers and shouted slogans.
Trinamul sources said the government had promised further revision of the fees for criminal bonds and attendance. “All the demands were turned down by law minister Nishith Adhikary,” said Trinamul member J.P. Mallik.
Trinamul legislator and advocate Arunabha Ghosh said in the House that his party was in favour of a continuing lawyers’ strike if the Bill was passed.
In his reply, the law minister said in the last financial year, the state had to spend Rs 153 crore on the judiciary but earned only Rs 30 crore from court fees.
The state is passing through an acute crunch, he reminded. “The financial position has compelled the government to revise the court fees after a gap of 32 years,” said Adhikary.
When asked about their course of action after the Assembly put its seal on the fee hike, Bar Council chairman Amiya Chatterjee said the executive members would discuss the issue tomorrow. “In that meeting, we will decide whether the ceasework will continue,” he said.
Reacting to the Speaker’s plea to call off their strike, the chief of the council executive, Ujjwal Majumdar said: “It is not an easy task. Our members are adamant.” The members were further aggrieved at the attitude of the law minister in the Assembly, he added. The council claimed that none of the courts, including those in the city, functioned for the 30th day today.