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CCTV footage used to identify lawyers behind ruckus

Calcutta High Court judge initiates contempt proceedings against disruptive lawyers

CCTV footage identifies 15 who laid seige to Rajasekhar Mantha's courtroom, boycott continues for second day
Justice Rajasekhar Mantha
Justice Rajasekhar Mantha
File picture

Sougata Mukhopadhyay   |   Calcutta   |   Published 10.01.23, 08:19 PM

The face-off between a section of the Bar and the Bench at Calcutta High court intensified by another notch on Tuesday with Justice Rajasekhar Mantha initiating proceedings for criminal contempt of court against lawyers who disrupted judicial proceedings at his court on Monday.

Sources at the high court revealed that the contempt rule was initiated by the judge after at least 15 lawyers, who laid siege to his courtroom and allegedly got involved in an ugly scuffle with lawyers unwilling to abide by their boycott diktat, were prima facie identified by the court administration from close circuit camera footage.


The agitating lawyers, on the other hand, continued to stay away from Mantha’s court for the second consecutive day expressing their intent to carry on with the boycott till the judge is assigned matters other than the ones he is currently hearing.

That, however, did not stop  Mantha from hearing petitions in the usual manner.

Preventive action was also noticed before the judge’s South Calcutta residence in Jodhpur Park from where posters criticizing the judge, which were put up in large numbers in the vicinity by unidentified people on Sunday night, were removed before the break of dawn on Tuesday, ostensibly by personnel from the local Lake police station.

Security presence at Mantha’s house was beefed up to six armed policemen instead of the earlier two.

Back in court, Mantha initiated the procedure for issue of contempt rule after taking suo motu cognizance of Monday’s disruptions. The judge forwarded all documents and evidence pertaining to the case to Chief Justice Prakash Srivastava on account of the criminality involved in the alleged contempt.

“I have already received some names from the office of the Registrar General of this court. I request you to furnish me with additional names of the disrupting lawyers as well,” Justice Mantha told advocate Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharya during the course of a hearing on Tuesday.

Bhattacharya has been opposing the agitating lawyers’ move and urged the court to draw the attention of the Supreme Court on the unruly developments in the corridors of Bengal’s high judiciary.

Meanwhile, a section of lawyers at the high court moved the Chief Justice’s Division Bench on Tuesday praying for issuing a suo motu contempt rule and exemplary action against the agitating lawyers. The petitioners submitted an affidavit with pictures of Monday’s scuffle to enable the court to identify the disrupters.

The affidavit was allowed by the court.

“The disruption at the court of the judge was not desirable at all. Some lawyers are now urging us to find a settlement through discussion with the agitators. I ask them why they did not take proactive steps yesterday to keep the court in functional mode and not ask the protestors to withdraw? We are keeping a close watch on all developments,” Chief Justice Shrivastava observed.

“Not only was Justice Mantha prevented from carrying out his judicial duties, a social smear campaign has also been launched against him. Colour posters are being put up outside his house. What’s happening with one judge today may also happen with other judges tomorrow if strong action is not taken against the offenders,” argued Advocate Bhattacharya.

The Division Bench remarked that it would take appropriate steps after taking a closer look at the petition.

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