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"Not only did the lawyers refrain from participating in court proceedings, but in the most brazen and blatant manner they had locked the entire court premises", the High Court observed.
Taking serious note of the “spine chilling picture revealed” through court-ordered police reports, the Calcutta High Court has summoned the office bearers of the concerned District Bar Associations to explain why contempt proceedings should not be initiated against them over a lawyers’ strike.
The strike had drawn the attention of the High Court two weeks earlier, when participating lawyers were complained to have obstructed court access, thereby stalling the progress of a criminal case before it.
The Division Bench of Justices Joymalya Bagchi and Suvra Ghosh had, therefore, directed the Medinipur police to inquire into the matter and take required steps to ensure that the strike does not obstruct justice administration.
A report subsequently submitted by the police informed the Court that an FIR has been registered against the striking lawyers, who are said to have obstructed access to the court premises to all, “including judges, police officers, staff and willing litigants” on December 20, 2019.
While the obstruction was lifted later, the Court was told that the cease work in the court is still continuing. Taking critical note of the same, the Bench observed,
“The aforesaid state of affairs depicts a cavalier attitude on the part of the lawyers to the rule of law and repeated pronouncements of the Apex Court that a strike in court resulting in paralysis of administration of justice amounts to criminal contempt.”
Not only did the lawyers refrain from participating in court proceedings, but in the most brazen and blatant manner they had locked the entire court premises preventing judges, police officers, staff of the court and litigants from entering the court precincts.
Calcutta High Court
The Court proceeded to opine that the reported actions of the striking lawyers prima facie constituted criminal contempt.
Report placed before us discloses sufficient materials to take a prima facie view that the conduct of the striking lawyers amounts to interference with administration of justice and has resulted in complete paralysis in the dispensation of justice in the said district.
Calcutta High Court
In view of the same, named office bearers of the Medinpur Bar Association and the Midnapur District Bar Association have been directed to respond to why contempt proceedings should not be initiated against them. The President and Secretary of the Associations have been directed to personally appear before the Court when the matter is scheduled to be taken up next on February 17.
In the meanwhile, the Police and the District Judge in Medipur have been directed to ensure that the strike does not affect the functioning of the Court. In this regard, the following directions have been issued.
Court premises at Medinipur Sadar is to be kept open and accessible to all. No obstruction shall be held out to any willing litigant or lawyer who chooses to appear and participate in court proceedings in any manner whatsoever.
Any obstruction to judges/police personnel/staff/willing lawyers/litigants and other stakeholders in the administration of justice by striking lawyers will be construed as cognizable offence in law and appropriate steps (prompt investigation) and prevention of such crime shall be undertaken.
District Judge, all other judicial officers and staff of the said court shall take all necessary steps so that certified copies and other relevant documents sought for by the litigants are provided to them forthwith and in accordance with law.
No obstruction shall be made to furnishing of bail bonds by sureties including the family members of accused persons.
The Court has also directed the District Judge and the Police authorities concerned to ensure that this order is publicised widely for the awareness of lawyers, litigants and other stakeholders.
[Read the Order]