A section of lawyers on Wednesday staged a brief protest in front of the court of Acting Chief Justice Rajesh Bindal demanding clarity on assignment of matters to judges, even as the Calcutta High Court Bar Association took a resolution to continue to plead their cases before all the courts as usual.
The agitating lawyers, who have not been attending judicial proceedings in the court of the Acting Chief Justice since Tuesday afternoon, also alleged lacunae in logistics at the Calcutta High Court for virtual hearing of cases.
The protest by some agitating lawyers was held for a brief period of time as a five-judge bench presided over by Acting Chief Justice Rajesh Bindal was hearing PILs on post-poll violence in West Bengal.
The protest was not called by any of the three associations – the Bar Association, Bar Library Club and the Incorporated Law Society – representing the advocates at the high court.
The Calcutta High Court Bar Association took a resolution in a general body meeting held in the virtual mode on Tuesday evening that its members would attend the courts of all the judges of the high court.
It was noted that the members were of the view that when the situation for normal functioning of the court is resuming, the “members of the Bar should not resort to abstinence from participating in the judicial proceedings before any Hon’ble Judge.”
The meeting resolved to “attend their respective duties before the Hon’ble Court for the benefit of the litigant public,” and said that the members of the Bar Association will review the situation after 15 days.
Appreciating the decision of the members of the Bar Association to attend their duties before the court, West Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar tweeted: “Dialogue and deliberation are essence of constitutionalism and rule of law, both vital for sustaining democratic values.”
The unanimous resolution of the Bar Association, High Court, Calcutta is an apt way forward stance.
Dialogue and deliberation are essence of constitutionalism and rule of law, both vital for sustaining democratic values. pic.twitter.com/n1ufUV9xfk
— Governor West Bengal Jagdeep Dhankhar (@jdhankhar1) July 28, 2021
The lawyers who did not participate in judicial proceedings in the court of Acting Chief Justice Bindal alleged “violation of appellate side rules by the administrative decision of the Acting Chief Justice” and “shortcomings” in the logistics for virtual hearing of matters.
A committee of five senior judges, which met representatives of the three associations on Monday, agreed to extend the court functioning time by half an hour and also allowed hybrid hearings, wherein the lawyers would have a choice to appear before a court in either the virtual mode or physically.
Justice Sabyasachi Bhattacharyya had on July 19 released a matter in which he had passed caustic observations in an order over connectivity issues during virtual hearing of cases, while expressing reservations about the way it was assigned to a division bench by the Acting Chief Justice, who is the “master of roster”, from his court.
Disturbed with connectivity issues during hearings in the virtual mode, Justice Bhattacharyya had on July 16 directed the high court’s central project coordinator to show cause in writing as to why proceedings should not be drawn up against the High Court Administration, including the Registrar General and the Central Project Coordinator, in particular, for criminal contempt of Court due to continuous interference in virtual hearings in court owing to connectivity issues.
The reply to the show cause notice was filed on the same day, as directed.
Following the assignment of the matter to a division bench, Justice Bhattacharyya said in an order on July 19 that at no point of time, he was ever contacted by the Registrar General or the “Acting Chief Justice through His Lordship’s Secretary or OSD. (Officer on Special Duty) seeking either my consent or at least having the courtesy to inform me about such assignment,” which he said negates his judicial order in administrative capacity.
“I have serious doubts about the transparency of the system of dispensation of justice in our court in view of the above chain of events,” Justice Bhattacharyya said in the order.
He said that the power of assignment springing from the “Master of Roster” concept, “confines the Chief Justice’s administrative power to assign specific Benches for taking up specific types of matters, which cannot be exercised at the whims of the RG or even the Acting Chief Justice.”
The high court administration has filed a Special Leave Petition (SLP) before the Supreme Court challenging the order of Justice Bhattacharyya.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)