A cloud of controversy is gathering over a bill with lawyers in the city and the districts threatening to go on a continuous ceasework. The bill, they claim, will severely affect their interests.
The lawyers have been irked by the proposed Pre-Litigation Conciliation Board Bill, which envisages the setting up of block-level committees for settling disputes through negotiations, without any help from lawyers.
“The bill is aimed at crippling our day-to-day legal assignments. What will be our role if the proposed committees settle disputes of litigants without moving court'” asked Dibyendu Biswas, member of the Bar Council’s executive committee, on Saturday. “This is also ultra virus to the Constitution.” Uttam Majumdar, executive chairman, Bar Council, said: “The bill, instead of helping litigants, will complicate their problems.”
The draft of the bill was sent to the Bar Council’s executive committee last week.
Jyotipriya Mullick, another Bar Council member, warned that lawyers would repeat last year’s continuous ceasework to pressurise the government. In October 2002, around 26,000 lawyers across the state had struck work for 73 days to protest the introduction of fresh court fees. According to Mullick, over 90 per cent lawyers are in favour of a long-term suspension of work, even at the cost of violating the apex court ruling which strips lawyers of the right to boycott court to press their demands.
“We will not allow the government to place the bill in the Assembly,” Mullick asserted.
Saradindu Biswas, also a member of the Bar Council’s executive committee, said they have already shot off letters to chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and law minister Nisith Adhikari, urging them to withdraw the bill within 60 days. “Some members want us to start the agitation right away,” he said.
The Bar Council has despatched copies of the bill to members of 150 bar associations and bar libraries across Bengal for their suggestions.
The agitation has received a boost from the CPM-controlled Democratic Lawyers’ Association, which has extended support for the cause.