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Rajeev Kumar case splits lawyers on protest

West Bengal Bar Council suspends ceasework till September 2

By Tapas Ghosh in Calcutta
  • Published 25.05.19, 4:09 AM
  • Updated 25.05.19, 4:09 AM
  • 2 mins read
Rajeev Kumar The Telegraph file picture

A section of lawyers wanted to end the month-long ceasework on Friday reportedly because the Supreme Court had sent former police commissioner Rajeev Kumar back to Calcutta to appeal for anticipatory bail in the Saradha case but another section opposed the move.

Late in the evening, an official of the West Bengal Bar Council said the ceasework had been suspended till September 2.

It was not clear how the other group would respond to the decision. In the event of no opposition, the lawyers should start attending court from Saturday. Calcutta High Court’s 15-day summer vacation starts on Saturday but other courts will remain open.

Advocate Uttam Majumdar, a member of the executive committee of the council, said: “We have suspended our ceasework till September 2. On that day, we will meet again and discuss the situation. We just want to see what action is taken against the accused.”

There were allegations that the group that was against the withdrawal of the ceasework was backed by anti-Trinamul Congress outfits.

As the standoff continued, two lawyers moved the district and sessions court in Barasat on behalf of Kumar. But the district and sessions judge rejected the petition seeking anticipatory bail on the ground that it was “faulty and defective”.

The judge, however, gave Kumar the liberty to file a fresh petition.

Kumar, who was a member of the special investigating team set up by the Mamata Banerjee government to probe the Saradha scam, faces allegations of “tampering with evidence and non-cooperation with” the CBI.

The CBI had sought the Supreme Court’s permission to question Kumar in custody. The apex court had granted the CBI’s plea on May 17 but gave Kumar a seven-day window to move for anticipatory bail.

Kumar moved the Supreme Court again on Friday pleading that the deadline for seeking anticipatory bail be extended. The court turned down the plea, forcing Kumar to move the Barasat court.

The bar council had called the ceasework on April 25 seeking action against cops and employees of the Howrah Municipal Corporation for allegedly attacking lawyers at the Howrah district court.

The council was to meet at 3pm on Friday to take a call on the strike. But soon after news came that Kumar was told to seek reprieve from a Bengal court, the council advanced the meeting to 11.30am.

As word spread that the strike had been suspended, a group of lawyers turned up at the council’s office and opposed the decision. The lawyers heckled chairman and Trinamul Congress MLA Ashok Deb and held a demonstration in front of the filing section of the high court throughout the day to prevent Kumar or any of his lawyers from moving the anticipatory bail plea.

The agitation prompted Kumar to go to the Barasat court for relief.

“At our previous meeting on May 17, we had announced that we would wait for a decision of the high court division bench hearing a suo motu case on the attack on lawyers,” Majumdar said.

“The bench recommended appropriate action against the accused cops and civic employees and also set up a judicial committee to probe the matter. Since we are happy with the verdict, the executive committee members decided to withdraw the ceasework.”

However, many lawyers alleged that the bar council had hurriedly called the meeting to facilitate the submission of Kumar’s anticipatory bail plea.

“We, lawyers of the Howrah court, were victims of police highhandedness. But the council members did not bother to consult us before suspending the strike,” a lawyer at the Howrah court said.

Late in the afternoon, Kumar’s lawyer filed the petition before district and sessions judge Keshang Doma Bhutia.

“Friday was the last working day of Calcutta High Court before a 15-day summer vacation starts. Kumar could have moved his petition before any vacation bench of the court. But in that case there were apprehensions of his arrest. Since there is no vacation in subordinate courts, Kumar decided to move Barasat court,” said Mihir Das, a lawyer who appeared for Kumar.