Calcutta, Nov. 29: The West Bengal Bar Council today said the proposed circuit bench at Jalpaiguri will lead to more harassment for litigants of the six districts in north Bengal and demanded that the number of judges for the bench be raised to 20 from the proposed four.
Most judges said they would not face major problems in going to north Bengal. However, the scheme should be restructured and a court with adequate infrastructure should be set up for quality service.
“Just imagine what a litigant will go through when he seeks to engage a senior lawyer to fight cases in north Bengal. He will have to hire a Calcutta lawyer by paying five times the fees. Besides, if the case is not heard on the fixed date, the entire money will be forfeited,” said senior advocate Rabi Shankar Chatterjee.
Law firms would not establish branches in Jalpaiguri unless the circuit bench takes the shape of a mini high court, said Debanjan Mondal, the co-partner of an eminent law firm. “Litigants of north Bengal will have to contact Calcutta law firms for day-to-day assistance,” he said.
The bar council also urged that the number of judges be increased to 20, instead of the four that Calcutta High Court chief justice A.K. Mathur will send to Jalpaiguri by rotation.
“One third of the state — six districts — will come under the purview of the proposed circuit bench. A total of 48 judges, though insufficient, are engaged in handling the cases in the high court. How will only four judges tackle one third of the total cases'” asked a senior judge.
“The people of north Bengal demanded a child from the government and have instead got a stillborn. Nearly 1.5 lakh cases are pending in the high court. One third of these will have to be handled by only four judges. Is this not a mockery'” asked a sitting judge.
The bar council has already demanded appointment of more judges in the proposed bench, said chairman Amiya Chatterjee. “We hope the apex court, as well as the state government and the Centre, will settle the issue well before the proposed circuit bench starts functioning,” he said.
The bar council demanded that the setting up of the circuit bench should be handled in a constructive manner.