Ramakanta Biswas

Sambalpur: Reigniting their protest against inordinate delay in establishment of a permanent bench of Orissa High Court in Sambalpur, the central action committee of the Western Odisha Lawyers' Association launched a three-day strike on Thursday.

All government, private and insurance offices and court in Sambalpur and other districts coming under the ambit of Western Odisha Lawyers' Association remained closed. The protesters were seen picketing in front of different government and private offices. They also interrupted district judge on way to his office and asked him to go back.

However, emergency services like hospital and educational institutions were exempted from the purview of the strike. The movement of vehicular traffic was normal while shops and market establishments remained open.

The lawyers expressed disappointment over non-functioning of high-level intra-departmental committee constituted by the state government in March this year to look into the demand of establishment of permanent HC bench in western Odisha.

"The intra-departmental committee was just eyewash constituted in view of the election. Even as three months have passed since the election, the committee is yet to function. The government is hoodwinking the people of western Odisha and have no willingness in this regard," alleged an agitating lawyer.

"Following assurance from the state government, we had called off our agitation last year. Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik had held discussion with us and assured us to look into the matter after the election was over. However, three months after the election and reconstitution of the intra-departmental committee, nothing has happened in this regard," said Sambalpur bar association president Bijay Chandra Pradhan.

"The intra-departmental committee which was set up to help in preparing a detailed report over our demands has not conducted a single sitting so far. Protesting this inordinate delay, we have launched the strike," Pradhan added.