Calcutta, Jan. 21: When Calcutta High Court chief justice A.K. Mishra started hearing cases in Court No. 1 this morning, a messenger approached him and conveyed a verbal message.
The message: The bar association ' a body representing over 5,500 lawyers in the high court ' has held an emergency meeting and adopted a resolution, according to a lawyer.
The resolution: Lawyers will skip the courts to mark 150 years of the country's oldest high court.
Justice Mishra was getting a taste of the Bengal work culture, less than 24 hours after a group of lawyers had failed to persuade him to declare a holiday today.
Soon after the message was conveyed this morning, the chief justice noticed that one of the government pleaders had stopped midway through his submission. Justice Mishra enquired what the matter was.
The pleader replied: "The bar association has taken the decision of not attending the court. How can I defy the decision?"
Most lawyers left the courtroom, although the number of pending cases had crossed 3.6 lakh at the last count.
Justice Mishra then sent a wider message on work culture, not through words but through his deed.
"The chief justice spent at least one-and-a-half hours in the courtroom after that and cleared several pending cases, which did not require the presence of lawyers in the courtrooms," said a court source.
At times, some cases get stuck because of technical reasons despite completion of hearing and the judge can dispose of these cases in the absence of lawyers.
By seeking to clear as many cases as possible, Justice Mishra was trying to follow what he had said when the year-long celebrations of 150 years of the high court ended yesterday in the presence of President Pranab Mukherjee.
"Karma (work), the main theme of the Vedas, should be the motto of the judiciary," Justice Mishra had said amid a huge round of applause from lawyers.
After the programme at Netaji Indoor Stadium ended, some members of the bar association met Justice Mishra and requested him to declare a holiday on Monday.
A source said the chief justice informed the lawyers that he was keen to keep the courts open.
Soon after taking charge of the high court on December 14, Justice Mishra had indicated that he was against stalling work in courts. Following a proposal from the association that the lawyers would not work during a felicitation programme to honour him, Justice Mishra had asked: "Should we write that to honour a CJ, we will not work?"
This morning, the lawyers, however, convened the emergency meeting and passed the resolution. The content of the resolution was conveyed through messengers to different judges, who had already started hearing cases in different courtrooms, and texted to lawyers.
"Such unnecessary declaration of holidays is unique to Calcutta High Court and this should stop…. Litigants are the biggest sufferers for such action on the part of the bar association. The image of the country's oldest high court suffers because of such poor work culture," said Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharyya, a senior member of the bar.
He added that the association had suspended him for attending court during a ceasework called by it. "But the Supreme Court gave its verdict in my favour and the association had to induct me," he said.