The Supreme Court on Monday frowned upon protests and court boycotts held by lawyers of district bar associations in western Odisha who are demanding a permanent bench of the Orissa High Court at Sambalpur. (PLR Projects Pvt Ltd v. Mahanadi Coalfields).A Bench of Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and AS Oka noted that access to justice was the foundation of the legal system, and the same was being impeded by boycotting lawyers."The legal fraternity is the instrument of access to justice to the people at large. When the very instruments abstain from court proceedings, the casuality is the access to justice to common people and it is the common people and litigants who suffer. We will not countenance this. The conduct of many associations and of lawyers has been far from satisfactory in the State of Orissa,".When a counsel for a lawyer who was placed under suspension by the Bar Council of India (BCI) sought a stay on the suspension until the next date of hearing, Justice Kaul warned,"That is out of the question. We want more suspensions...I am telling you, we will take away your source of income. You are making the public suffer...All licences will be suspended if the boycott is not over by day after.""Junior Bar members also suffer if they differ on [the call for] boycott," Justice Oka weighed in. The matter will be heard next on November 28. .The Court was hearing an application concerning the protests by lawyers in the State since September 28.As per a report in the New Indian Express, members of the Sambalpur District Bar Association had ceased work since November 2, paralysing the functioning of lower courts as well as government offices.The lawyers had announced that they would do so every Wednesday till their demand is met..In its order, the Court noted that the High Court's Chief Justice had organised back-to-back meetings in this regard, but the bar associations did not participate in the same. This has led to about 2,14,176 working hours being lost across courts, with which the 'effect practically is to bring the working of the judicial system to a stand still jeopardizing the litigating public', the Bench noted.While appreciating the steps taken by the BCI to suspend the licenses of office-bearers of five district bar associations, the Court noted that more steps would be needed if the protesters do not fall in line."We expect full working by all the Bar associations by day after tomorrow failing which the Bar Council of India will proceed further in similar actions". The order notes that with respect to the need to set up new benches, the ground situation had changed in view of the increased adoption of technology."We expect the High Court of Orissa to place before us status report qua the computerization which has been effected to facilitate functioning of the District Courts." The Court took note of an assurance by counsel for the Bhubaneswar Bar Association that it has and will not take part in the protests, and accordingly asked it to cooperate with authorities in ensuring that court work resumes. "We expect Judicial Officers at the State level to perform their functions without fear or favour whether lawyers are present or not present and the consequences of adverse orders will have to be borne by the lawyers who in turn are accountable to the litigants.".Advocate Renuka Sahu appeared for the Central Action Committee formed by the All Bar Association of Western Odisha. Senior Advocate Arvind P Datar with advocates Sibo Sankar Mishra, Niranjan Sahu, Debabrata Dash, and Umakant Mishra appeared for the petitioners.