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Saturday history at high court

Calcutta: When Justices Joymalya Bagchi and Rajarshi Bharadwaj took their seats in Court 308 at 10.30am on Saturday, history was made at Calcutta High Court.

For the first time in its 155 years, the court had opened on a Saturday, nudged by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra to clear its backlog of about 1.5 lakh criminal cases.

A handful of lawyers, law clerks and court employees had shown up, and the usual buzz along the corridors was missing. The tea stalls outside were shut.

The bench disposed of 17 cases - appeals against lower court convictions and sentences - hearing them all for the first time and taking about 10 minutes over each. Some of these had been pending since 2005, with the convicts close to completing their impugned sentences but unable to afford lawyers to present their case.

On Saturday, lawyers appointed by the state legal aid services represented them.

In the day's first case, CRA 531 of 2010, the bench upheld the sex crime conviction of Rajkumar Barman but ordered his release since he had served out his seven-year term.

The bench freed one more convict, reduced the fine against two, and dismissed several appeals. Seventeen cases isn't much but lawyers hailed the "new beginning".

The last order was passed at 1.42pm, 12 minutes behind schedule. "I'm late by 12 minutes," Justice Bagchi joked, and the lawyers tittered.

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