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Calcutta HC Bar Association Resolves To Not Participate In Physical Hearings; Urges CJ To Withdraw June 5 Notification For Resumption Of Normal Functioning

Mehal Jain
10 Jun 2020 7:04 AM GMT
Calcutta HC Bar Association Resolves To Not Participate In Physical Hearings; Urges CJ To Withdraw June 5 Notification For Resumption Of Normal Functioning
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Citing that it is a matter of life and death of the Advocates and about their livelihood, the Calcutta High Court Bar Association was "most reluctantly constrained to resolve" on Monday that its members would abstain from participating in the physical functioning of the court on any date fixed, urging that the Court withdraws its June 5 notification for resumption of normal functioning of the courts.

It is averred that in view of the fact that the said notification vitally affects the interest of a very large number of advocates, the Association convened a webinar amongst High Court Advocates, "really a general meeting of advocates", which was participated by more than 500 advocates and a large number of advocates spoke in the meeting and expressed their views.
The lawyer body asserts that it was the common stand that Courts can resume physical functioning in a restricted form only after the transport services, particularly suburban trains and public transport system are resumed. "Most lawyers and Court staff use suburban trains and public transport to reach courts. Without such services resuming, it may not be feasible to resume normal Court work even at a reduced level", it stated in its communication to the Court.
"Once lockdown measures ease and there is a definite announcement regarding the resumption of suburban trains and the public transport system, it will take at least a week before the Courts can resume physical functioning in any form. The Court rooms have to be cleaned, the buildings have to be sanitised and requisite measures have to be put in place before physical court functioning resumes even in a reduced form", it was further advanced for the consideration of the Judges.'
It is submitted that while these recommendations evoked no response, the bar was perturbed to find the Bengali newspaper Eai-samay carry a news item on June 2 that the functioning of the High Court was going to start soon.
"We also came to know that a notice dated 1.6.2020 was issued by the Registrar General about direction given to the High Court staff for resuming their duties", it is stated.
Even as the Association made yet another attempt at corresponding with the Registrar General in this behalf, the June 5 notification about resumption of physical functioning of the High Court came to be published.
"In the webinar cum general meeting held on 7.6.2020, a very large number of advocates expressed their great fear and apprehension about the said notification dated 5.6.2020 including the apprehension that the said notification would vitally affect not only the safety and security of advocates and endanger their lives during Covid 19, but also adversely affect the professional career of more than 80% of the Advocates practicing in the High Court at Calcutta", the Association has written.
Further, it is pressed that though the said notification states that the matters will be taken up on consent of the affected parties, the language of the said notification may create a fear amongst the clients about the effect of non appearance on the fixed date and "there is a very strong and genuine apprehension that the clients will take change in thousands of cases from Advocates who are at present in districts and cannot come to Kolkata because of non availability of transport".
Moreover, it is pointed out that the number of Covid 19 cases in West Bengal are galloping at a very fast pace- ["According to newspaper reports, the number of new Covid 19 cases have already reached 1/31d of the total number of cases existing on 31.5.2020"
It is earnestly argued that a large number of Advocates in West Bengal are the sole bread earners for their respective families. Advocates have no social security. Most of the advocates do not have medi-claims and insurance. "Even our prayer for reserving 5 beds in hospitals for advocates and for formation of a committee by the High Court to supervise the treatment of advocates who may be affected by Covid 19, has not been approved by the Hon'ble Judges Committee . Nowadays about 10 to 15 lakh rupees are needed for getting treated in a standard hospital for a Covid 19 patient. In the present scenario an advocate suffering from Covid 19 may lose his life without proper treatment", it is stressed.
The Association has prayed before the Chief Justice to not give effect to the notification.

"We most respectfully beg to submit that we have neither declared a boycott of the Hon'ble Court nor have we decided to totally abstain from participating in High Court proceedings. Our only decision is that our members will not participate in physical functioning of the High Court. We are not restraining our members from participating in virtual hearing at the Hon'ble High Court at Calcutta", it is clarified.

It may be noted that the lockdown in the state of West Bengal stands extended to June 30 at the behest of the CM.
Besides, despite repeated requests by the BCI, the SCBA and the SCAORA, A seven-judge committee of the Supreme Court is not in favour of resuming regular open court hearings in the wake of pandemic, as per a report of the Economic Times.
Last week, the Madras High Court too reverted to virtual functioning after three of its judges tested positive for COVID.

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