Lawyers stay away from court

Cuttack: Judicial activities across the state were affected on Friday as lawyers abstained from judicial and administrative courts, including the High Court, following a call given by the Odisha High Court Bar Association.

The apex body of lawyers in the state had on Thursday appealed to their fraternity to stay away from court work till Monday in protest against what they called `inept handling of Sambalpur issue by the state government,` among other things.

The police had on Thursday arrested 18 lawyers in Sambalpur basing on the FIR filed by the district collector Mrilanini Darswal who was allegedly manhandled by advocates.

"According to reports reaching here, lawyers across the state did not attend any of the judicial or administrative courts on the day," said the High Court Bar Association Secretary Piyush Mishra.

Courts will remain closed for the next two days on account of Lawyers Day and Sunday and the next course of action would be decided on Monday morning after evaluating the report of the fact-finding team of lawyers currently visiting Sambalpur, Mishra said.

Meanwhile, a seven-member-fact-finding team headed by High Court Bar Association president Jayant Das and members of State Bar Council and All Odisha Lawyers Forum here went to Sambalpur on the day and held discussions with all stakeholders over the Monday`s incident involving lawyers and the district collector.

The decision to send the fact-finding team was taken by a joint meeting of the three lawyers bodies after forming a joint coordination committee on Thursday.

Demanding a judicial probe into the incident, the joint coordination committee criticized the government`s decision to hand over the matter to crime branch police for investigation.

On the other hand, an eight-member crime branch police team reached Sambalpur and began investigating into the incident in which at least three police complaints were filed, including one filed by the district collector.

The decision to hand over the case to crime branch police for investigation was taken by Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on Tuesday who had stated that the law would take its course and the guilty shall be severely dealt with.

Sambalpur district collector Darswal, who was allegedly assaulted and abused by the lawyers on Monday, in the meantime approached the State Women?s Commission urging the panel to probe the matter in which the local lawyers had allegedly tried to outrage her modesty.

SCW chairperson Jyoti Panigrahi said she has received an application from the lady IAS officer and she would soon visit Sambalpur to probe into the matter.