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'Lawyers continue to boycott Judge Mantha's court'

Calcutta High Court impasse: Bar Council steps in, to send three-member fact-finding team

Undesirable, says Bengal chapter of advocates' panel; state lawyers continue to stay away from Judge Mantha's court, 40 cases weren't heard on Friday
Calcutta High Court
Calcutta High Court
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Sougata Mukhopadhyay   |   Calcutta   |   Published 13.01.23, 04:03 PM

There seems to be no let-up in the Calcutta High Court imbroglio with the Bar Council of India now deciding to throw its hat into the ring and send a fact-finding team, much to the chagrin of its state counterpart.

The statutory pan-India body of advocates, while calling the lawyers’ stir before Justice Rajasekhar Mantha’s courtroom earlier this week “indecent”, has decided to send three of its members to look into the disruption and submit a report by 17 January. Surprised by the move, the Council’s West Bengal chapter has called the decision “undesirable”.


The developments took place in the midst of the continuing impasse at Mantha’s courtroom with state’s lawyers continuing to stay away from the court rendering hearing impossible and case dates getting postponed. On Friday, as many as 40 cases were called in Mantha’s court but none could be heard since lawyers representing the state were absent, sources told The Telegraph Online.

The Bar Council of India’s move came a day after Mantha issued a suo motu notice of criminal contempt against the agitating lawyers and staff on grounds of “clear attempt to interfere with the justice delivery system” and making “false, misleading, baseless and reckless allegations” against the judge.  

A Council memo, dated January 12 and signed by joint secretary Awanish Kumar Pandey, read: “This committee examined the various news items and reports on digital media with regard to the indecent incident which took place in Kolkata High Court two days ago. Several advocates of Delhi have also made a representation to the Bar Council of India explaining in detail the incident which took place in and outside the court of Hon’ble Mr Justice Rajasekhar Mantha. The disruptive and disrespectful behavior of some of the Advocates of Kolkata High Court, the boycott of court and illegal protest, forceful physical obstruction of lawyers from entering in the courtrooms are prima facie gross misconduct.”

The three-member fact-finding team, comprising senior advocates Ravindra Raizada, Ashok Mehta and Bandana Kaur Grover, would speak to the high court’s Registrar General and the president and secretary of the court’s Bar Association besides examining video footage of close circuit cameras from the day of the chaos, the Council communication stated.

'Move undesirable'

“The Bar Council of India has decided to send its team without consulting or even informing us. It appears from their communication which we find in the media that the panel members are not enrolled with any state bar councils. This move was undesirable,” said advocate Shyamal Ghatak, Member, West Bengal Bar Council.

The move by the council’s national body has forced its state counterpart to huddle for an emergency meet on Friday. A representative is also scheduled to meet Calcutta High Court Chief Justice Prakash Shrivastava later in the day.

Asked why the state bar council has so far not intervened to end the ongoing Bar versus Bench stalemate, Ghatak said: “The body had met right ahead of the day the trouble took place. Our members are spread all over the state and it has not been possible to meet again at short notice. We will meet today and decide our stand.”

Damning observations

While justifying the contempt, Justice Mantha had made damning observations in his 10 January order. The interference to justice was made by the accused “by locking up the court room from outside and preventing access to the court room to lawyers, litigants and court staff,” the order stated.

 “…attempts have been made to browbeat, intimidate, instill fear in this court from discharging its functions by making false, misleading and baseless allegations,” it added.

Calling the allegations made against Mantha in the posters which were put up inside court premises and also outside the judge’s residence as “reckless”, the contempt order qualified them as “scandalous and tend to scandalize the court and the judge and an attempt to lower the authority of the court inter alia in the public at large.”

Mantha travelling to Delhi

These acts “have shaken the confidence of the community in the justice delivery system,” the order stated, adding that the accused have tried “to lower the dignity and majesty of this court in the eyes of public at large.”

With no end to the ongoing stalemate at Mantha’s court currently in sight, the Judge traveling to Delhi and Bhopal for pre-scheduled judicial programmes and the possibility of him meeting the Chief Justice of India and members of the Supreme Court judges’ committee has only added to speculations in Bengal's judicial corridors.

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