Lawyers of the Calcutta High Court stayed away from work for the second day on Thursday as part of their three-day ceasework citing hot and humid conditions. Only a miniscule percentage of lawyers came to the court and a few cases were heard even as most of the courtrooms wore a deserted look. Though the judges were present, representatives of litigants were missing, thereby delaying the hearing of cases.
“With more than 2.8 lakh cases pending before the high court, the ceasework would only lead to piling up of more cases and increase the harassment of litigants,” counsel Rabishankar Chattopadhyay, one of the few lawyers who attended court on both the days, said.
State Law Minister Chandrima Bhattacharya also discussed the figures of pending cases in the Assembly on Thursday. “Figures show that till December 31, 2014, the total number of cases pending before the Calcutta High Court is 2,86,306. Of these 2,30,697 are civil cases and 55,609 are criminal cases,” she told the Assembly.
The High Court Bar Association had on Tuesday taken a majority resolution not to attend court from June 10 to June 13 owing to excessive heat and humidity. Chief Justice Manjula Chellur and Justice Joymalyo Bagchi had asked the lawyers to attend court in the interest of litigants but the advocates stuck to their decision.
Voicing unhappiness over the lawyers’ decision not to attend court for three days, the chief justice had Tuesday said if people in professions such as police, nurses and others can work, it should not be so difficult for the lawyers of high court who work in air-conditioned rooms. The CJ had described the lawyers’ decision as “irritating and painful”.
The high court had reopened on June 1 after a fortnight-long summer break. Justice Asim Kumar Ray, too, expressed his dissatisfaction to Advocate General Jayanta Mitra regarding the three-day extended break taken by the lawyers.
Sources said Ray had pointed out that the lawyers, in spite of the ceasework, were meeting clients and discussing cases. He added that case diaries that had been sent by different police stations were also lying unattended as government-empanelled lawyers were absent as well.
Justice Ray, who could not hear the anticipatory bail plea of a businessman owing to the absence of the lawyers on both sides, asked the Attorney General to ensure that the advocates are present on Friday with the case diary.
The Bar Association said it was not responsible for the pending cases. “The ceasework has been enforced because our plea to extend the summer vacation was turned down. We did it to escape the heat outside,” said Swapan Banerjee, a member of the association.
Referring to Bhattacharya’s comments, he said: “They are projecting it as if the court was open for these three days, all the 2.8 lakh cases would have been solved. We are not responsible for the backlog. The judicial system is equally responsible.”