No need for any High Court bench in Odisha, rules Supreme Court

Bhubaneswar: The Supreme Court, while hearing the plea related to protest by lawyers demanding a permanent bench of Orissa High Court in Sambalpur, today ruled that there is no need for establishment of such bench.

“The passage of time and use of technology has made the demands obsolete. The use of technology is quite widespread now and monitored by the Orissa HC. There is no need for additional bench,” said a bench of the Supreme Court comprising Justice SK Kaul and Justice AS Oka.

“There is no hope for formation of a bench. Even if there was a remote possibility, it is lost now with the conduct of the agitating lawyers,” the Supreme Court said.

As directed by the apex court, Odisha DGP and police officer in-charge of Sambalpur district appeared before it virtually today.

“The DGP and IG have stated that they will keep the situation under control. They would be closely watched by us,” the bench said.

The top court further said that all office bearers of the Sambalpur Bar Association who were indulged in violence during the agitation will be served contempt of court notice.

“The resolution of the Central Action Committee of the Sambalpur Bar Association is only the suspension of the strike. We reject the resolution. The committee would have to call off the strike unconditionally,” the bench ruled.

“Anyone can file petition and appear before the Orissa High virtually from district courts in the state. It has been proposed that one room in every district court be made functioning for video conferencing. The operationalisation would be in 3 months. We accept the same,” it said.

The apex court said that complete peace and functionality of the court has to be maintained while the lawyers who are willing to attend court be able to do so.

Some senior officers of Bar Council of India are facing threats. It shall be responsibility of the state police to provide protection to them, the SC said.

The next hearing of the matter will take place on February 6, 2023.

Notably, the Central Action Committee of All Bar Associations of Western Odisha yesterday suspended its ongoing agitation demanding establishment of Orissa High Court’s permanent bench in Sambalpur.

The Bar Council of India has suspended practice license of 43 lawyers of the district bar association for 18 months who had allegedly resorted to violence during the agitation. It has also suspended all members of district bar association till further orders.

Sambalpur police have so far arrested 17 agitating lawyers over their alleged involvement in vandalism on the premises of the District Court.

They have been arrested under Sections 147, 341, 323, 353, 332, 506, 186, 188 and 149 of the IPC.

The accused lawyers had allegedly resorted to vandalism inside the chamber of a district judge.

The number of arrests is likely to increase as police were examining CCTV footage of the court premises to identify others involved in the offence.

Prohibitory order under Section 144 of CrPC has been clamped at the Kacheri Chhak, where the lawyers had staged protest, to avoid any further untoward incident.

Action will be taken against anyone entering the prohibited area, police said.

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