| Mamata with Chief Justice Patel at the circuit bench building foundation ceremony. Picture by Sanat Kumar Sinha
Jalpaiguri, Sept. 1: Mamata Banerjee today shared a dais with judges, including Chief Justice J.N. Patel, in her first public appearance alongside members of the judiciary since her controversial comments on August 14.
Today, the chief minister praised the judiciary for supporting the government’s efforts to set up human rights courts and delivering speedy verdicts through Lok Adalats and fast-track courts.
“We are setting up 19 human rights courts in the state. Judges have helped us and without their support, it would not have been possible,” Mamata said after laying the foundation stone for a building for Calcutta High Court’s circuit bench in Jalpaiguri.
“In the past one year, the fast-track courts and the Lok Adalats have cleared 1 lakh pending cases. They are doing a very good job. Justice is smiling through these new courts.”
At a pre-Independence Day seminar in the Assembly, she had said: “What I see is that many verdicts are being delivered in exchange for money today. Why? The judiciary’s job is to give justice. Corruption has become the main pillar now.... This is our misfortune.”
At Jalpaiguri today, Mamata promised air-conditioning for all the circuit bench courtrooms and better amenities for lawyers in every court in the state.
“We are trying to build new courtrooms. Calcutta High Court has got a new building thanks to the efforts of the judges. Lawyers (still) have to sit under trees. It is very difficult for them. We will offer them amenities so that they can provide better services to people,” she said.
The circuit bench will be built at Paharpur More off NH31D. The government has sanctioned Rs 83 crore for the building, which is expected to come up in two years.
Once the circuit bench starts functioning, many litigants from the six north Bengal districts — Darjeeling, Jalpaiguri, Cooch Behar, Malda, North Dinajpur and South Dinajpur — will be spared the trouble of travelling to Calcutta.
Chief Justice Patel said: “The chief minister has assured me that the building will be ready in two years. If that happens, we may try to set up a permanent circuit bench. I have already written to the Union law ministry to issue a notification for the circuit bench to start functioning.”
The chief justice said that around 21,263 cases from the six districts were pending.
“Once the bench starts functioning, the number of cases will go up since people who cannot afford to travel to Calcutta to file cases or appeal against a judgment would come here,” he added.