More than one lakh lawyers from high court and lower courts in Madhya Pradesh abstained from courts on Tuesday to protest against the radical changes made by Chief Justice AM Khanwilkar to reform the judicial machinery.
Lawyers are also protesting against the deadline to dispose of cases pending for five years and above in district courts by March 31. Agitated by the move, advocates from all the 51 districts of the state decided to boycott court and demanded his immediate transfer.
The strike was jointly called by the State Bar Council of Madhya Pradesh (SBCMP), the MP Senior Advocates Bar, the MP High Court Advocates Bar Association, the MP High Court Bar Association (MPHCBA) and District Bar Associations.
The high court administration issued a memorandum on November 5, 2014 to the district and sessions judges across the state instructing them to clear the backlog of cases pending for five or more years fixing a deadline of March 31.
Besides, in the memorandum, there is instruction to the district and sessions judges that the judicial officer concerned be directed to dispose of the cases within the time frame and on priority basis by curtailing unnecessary adjournment. If they fail to do so, they must assign good reasons, otherwise adverse entry be entered in their confidential report by the district and sessions judge.
MPHCBA Jabalpur president AM Trivedi said over one lakh lawyers across the state abstained from the high court principal seat at Jabalpur, benches at Gwalior and Indore, besides the tehsil courts and the district courts, to lodge their protest.
In Indore, court rooms wore a deserted look on Tuesday as none of the lawyers turned up for hearings. About 50,000 cases listed for hearing in different courts across the state were affected on Tuesday due to the boycott.
According to sources, about 3,500 cases were listed for hearing across all the three benches of MPHC on Tuesday and more than 40,000 cases in lower courts including family courts and consumer forums.
The lawyers alleged that the CJ has been issuing diktats, amending court rules as per his discretion. They said they will send a representation to Chief Justice of India for his immediate removal.
While the introduction of roster system last year was being seen as the major bone of contention between the CJ and the lawyers, the recent incident of penalising a fellow advocate in Jabalpur for filing a PIL acted as trigger for them for staging the statewide protest on Tuesday.
The advocates alleged that instead of easing the functions of the court, the roster system has complicated the process. “After introduction of the roster system, pendency in the courts have increased by three times in the past one year; it has also increased the cost of litigation,” said advocate Anil Ojha, the secretary of HC Bar Association, Indore.
However, according to law experts, the introduction of roster system is the right move towards breaking nexus between advocates and judges and also aims at bringing transparency in judicial procedures.