Thousands of Bihar lawyers to continue strike

April 7th, 2008 - 7:21 pm ICT by admin  

Patna, April 7 (IANS) Thousands of lawyers in Bihar Monday decided to continue their strike till the state government withdraws the steep hike in court fees. The strike began March 31 after the state government refused to roll back the court fee hike.

About 80,000 lawyers including those of the Patna High Court and district courts struck work for the 10th consecutive day Monday and decided to continue their agitation after a meeting attended by representatives of all 122 bar associations across the state.

“It was decided by the associations to continue strike and not to resume work till withdrawal of the court fees,” said Rajendra Singh, a senior lawyer and former president of the state bar council.

The lawyers also decided not to negotiate with a ministerial committee the state government constituted last week to look into their demands.

“It is useless to talk to the committee unless the government withdrew the hike,” Singh said.

Chief Minister Nitish Kumar announced last week that the committee headed by Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi would look into the objections raised by lawyers’ associations.

The state government would take a final decision on the basis of the committee’s report, Nitish Kumar said.

The lawyers’ strike has been affecting the working of courts across the state.

“The judicial services have been totally paralysed by the lawyers’ strike and is affecting the common people,” said M.P. Gupta, a lawyer and civil rights activist.

Singh said the state government’s approach to the striking lawyers was condemnable and recalled that Bihar Industry Minister Gautam Singh had last month ruled out the withdrawal of the hiked fee.

Gautam Singh had said the state spends more than Rs.191 crore (Rs.1.9 billion) on the judiciary each year, and the hike in fees would bring in only about Rs.20 crore (Rs.200 million). “We don’t think the rates are so high that they warrant a strike from the legal community.”

According to the new fee structure, the charge for filing a public interest litigation (PIL) in the high court would go up to Rs.1,000. Earlier, the rate depended on the nature of the case.

The rate for procuring copies of judgements and other court proceedings has also been raised from Re.1 to Rs.10 per page.

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