A major fire broke out in the district courts on Monday in which about a dozen lawyers' chambers were gutted. Important court records were reduced to ashes. The entire furniture and electric fittings were charred.
Had the fire tenders not reached immediately, the damage could have been much more extensive.
The fire broke out at around 12 noon due to short-circuit in one of the chambers in the interiors of the court complex and spread to the adjacent chambers. Most of the lawyers were, at that time, present in the courtrooms. The staff and the litigants who were sitting inside had a narrow escape as the thatched leaf roofs collapsed and the ceiling fans blasted.
Two fire tenders reached the courts within minutes, but took some time to gain access through the narrow lanes which are dotted by haphazardly built chambers. Some of the lawyers and their staff also showed a lot of presence of mind and saved many records from getting damage. The fire was brought under control after about half an hour.
District and sessions judge GK Dhir and chief judicial magistrate Tarntaran Singh visited the spot to assess the loss. The district bar association blamed the high court and the state government for not heeding their demand for a new judicial complex. It resolved to observe a strike on Tuesday to register their protest. President VK Menon said the case of a new judicial complex was hanging fire for the past several years due to dilly-dallying by the high court.
"Lawyers are compelled to work in unsafe conditions. The matter was brought to the notice of the high court several times," he said.
Asked if the lawyers were not to blame for the disorder prevailing in the court complex, he said they had no other option. "We have been hearing since long that search is on for a suitable site for the construction of a new judicial complex. But it can be built on the existing site which is spread on 11 acres of land," said advocate Dharminder Kumar Dadra, secretary of the bar association.