The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Prosecutors on pay strike
- Nadia ceasework cloud on Dhantola, Chandan Sen cases

Krishnagar, Nov. 17: Over 500 trials, including the Dhantola rape and the doctor Chandan Sen murder cases, seem set for inordinate delay with government-empanelled lawyers in Nadia going on an indefinite ceasework to protest against non-payment of dues for four years.

About 40 lawyers appear on behalf of the government in the various sessions courts in the district and they claim that dues to the tune of Rs 1 crore have piled up.

District magistrate Rajesh Pandey admitted they could not be paid due to an acute financial crisis. 'But I have been assured by the government that part of the dues will be allotted to my district. I request the panel lawyers to resume work immediately or else there will be a crisis,' he said.

In Calcutta, law minister Nisith Adhikary said: 'We have recently released some money and if more funds are required, we will do so.'

Dilip Chatterjee, prosecutor in the Dhantola loot-and-rape case being heard in Ranaghat, said it would not be possible for him to continue.

'The hearing of the Dhantola case will resume from November 26, but how can I fight the case if I am not paid' I am losing out on cases which can bring me good money as I am preoccupied with the Dhantola case,' said Chatterjee.

The doctor murder case is being heard in Krishnagar.

The district public prosecutor selects the panel of lawyers ' mostly senior practitioners ' after consulting the district magistrate. These lawyers, including the public prosecutor of the sessions court, are not state staff, but receive a fee for each appearance.

Nazrul Haque, the president of the Nadia District Bar Association and a panel lawyer, said the government owed him about Rs 4 lakh.

'Earlier we were paid about Rs 62 per appearance. In 2000, the pay structure was reviewed and the amount was increased to Rs 125. The accumulated amount per month, however, will not exceed Rs 1.2 lakh per month for a prosecutor,' said Haque.

Azadi Sangram Basu, another panel lawyer, said several memoranda were submitted to the district magistrate. 'At the last meeting we told him it would not be possible for us to appear for the state any longer if we don't get our pay by November 15. We didn't get paid and so we decided to resort to a ceasework,' he said.

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