SAMBALPUR/ROURKELA: Normal life was thrown out of gear in Sambalpur, Sundargarh and Balangir towns on Wednesday following the dawn-to-dusk Western Odisha bandh called by bar associations demanding the establishment of a High Court bench in the region.
The bandh evoked spontaneous response in Sambalpur where the lawyers protested the Odisha Bar Council’s recommendation to the Bar Council of India (BCI) to take disciplinary action against the agitating bar associations of the Western Odisha.
State and central government offices, educational institutions, shops, markets, business establishments remained closed in the three western Odisha districts due to the agitation. Vehicular movement was disrupted across the districts while train services were affected as bandh activists staged a rail-roko at Sambalpur railway station.
President of District Bar Association (DBA), Sambalpur, Bijitendriya Pradhan said the Central Action Committee (CAC) of All Western Odisha Bar Association (AWOBA) had demanded that the State Government should submit a comprehensive proposal for the establishment of High Court bench in Western Odisha by August 30 last year.
"The State Government is yet to initiate any step in this regard, which forced the CAC to intensify its stir in the region. We also condemn the Odisha Bar Council’s recommendation to BCI for disciplinary action against agitating bar associations of the region," he said.
The agitating lawyers said the State Bar Council is elected by them and it needs to protect the rights of the lawyers. The council is aware that the lawyers of the region have been demanding a High Court bench in Western Odisha since long. However, the council has not taken any step in this regard. But now the council has recommended disciplinary action which is detrimental for the interest of lawyers. It is also a conspiracy to sabotage the movement for the establishment of high court bench, Pradhan alleged.
At Sundargarh town, members of Sundargarh District Bar Association (SDBA) resorted to picketing and closed all state and central government offices. Shops, commercial establishments and educational institutions were also forced to close, while vehicles remained off the roads impacting normal life in different places in the district. Transport of coal through roadways was also badly affected.
Stating that the recommendation of the State Bar Council is unjust, SDBA President Dushmanta Naik said that the lawyers and Western Odisha Nagarik Kriyanusthan Committee will continue to resort to agitation to press for setting up of a permanent bench of the Orissa High Court in western Odisha and fight for rights of advocates.
At Rourkela, lawyers confined the protest within the court boundary. Rourkela Bar Association (RBA) members refrained from attending court works. RBA, one of the largest bars in western Odisha, had been previously pressing for the establishment of the proposed HC bench at Rourkela.
In a change of strategy, the RBA this time did not press for the HC bench at Rourkela. RBA President Ramesh Chandra Bal said they fully support the demand for the HC bench in western Odisha. The location should be finalised on merits as per the recommendation of the Justice CR Pal Commission and guidelines of the Justice Jaswant Singh, he added.