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Courts Across West Bengal Crippled Under Indefinite Cease-Work By Advocates To Protest Police Atrocity: High Court Takes PBT’s PIL Against “Lawyers’ Strike”, Tags With Lawyers’ Case And Fixed For Joint Hearing On May 8, 2019

The entire justice delivery system in High Court and lower courts across West Bengal remains virtually closed bringing the hapless justice-seekers endless miseries as advocates continue an indefinite “cease-work” in protest of alleged attack by police in a court in Howrah more than two weeks ago. Many ongoing cases filed PBT including several public interest litigations (PILs) also suffer because of this extended cease-work/strike by the lawyers. While PBT strongly denounces any abuse of power by the police on the ordinary people or advocates, strike or cease-work by advocates on any ground is wrong because the ultimate price for disruption of regular court services are paid only by the defenseless people and justice-seekers.

PBT filed a PIL (W.P. No. 150/2018; Dr. Kunal Saha & Anr. vs. West Bengal Bar Council & Ors.) against a similar extended lawyers’ strike in 2018 (in demand of appointment of more judges) that also crippled judicial services in Calcutta High Court for more than 2 months. While the PIL is still pending for final adjudication, West Bengal Bar Council and other lawyers’ groups started the present indefinite cease-work/strike on ground of alleged police brutality. Although a PIL was initiated suo motu by Chief Justice of Calcutta HC to probe the alleged police atrocity, advocate-groups including WBBC started an indefinite cease-work despite call from the Chief Justice to the advocates not to abstain from work.

Taking up the pending PIL against “lawyers’ strike” filed by PBT, division bench of Chief Justice and Justice Mr. Arijit Banerjee heard PBT’s case on May 3 (represented by Mr. Ranjit Sarkar, PBT governing body member since no lawyer was willing to appear) and held that in view of the previous declaration by the Supreme Court reported in (2003) 2 SCC 45 that any “strike (by advocates) is contrary to the law“, our PIL will be jointly heard with the PIL against alleged police atrocity on May 8, 2019. It is expected to be a major legal showdown next week when two contrasting PILs (one against abuse of power by police and one against the unlawful lawyers’ strike) will be heard together by the Chief Justice court in Calcutta HC (see Calcutta HC Order below).

Cal HC Order, May 3, 2019 (W.P. No. 150:2018) Lawyers Strike