CUTTACK: The Orissa High Court on Monday took cognisance of a PIL pertaining to closure of some courts in Sambalpur and Berhampur for last few months. The High Court has issued notices to the State chief secretary, law secretary, district collectors and SPs of Ganjam and Sambalpur to file counters in response to the PIL. The High Court has also asked the district judges of these two districts to file status reports of the functioning of the courts under their jurisdiction within two weeks.

The lawyers of Sambalpur and Berhampur -- two important townships of the State -- have been agitating for last three months demanding establishment of permanent benches of the High Court. The lawyers have even locked up the gates of the district judge courts and thwarted all attempts of the respective district administrations to open the courts.

Three lawyers of the High Court filed a PIL stating that due to the lawyers’ strike and closure of the courts for such a long period, the poor litigants of these areas are facing untold miseries. “The jails in these areas are bursting at the seams as the under-trial prisoners are not getting an opportunity to have their cases tried while a few others who have been granted bail by the High Court are unable to be released from jails,” the petitioners said.

Taking cognisance of the PIL, the bench of Chief Justice A.K. Ganguly and Justice B.N. Mohapatra issued notices to the opposite parties. The bench has also asked the district judges of Ganjam and Sambalpur to file reports about the functioning of their courts within two weeks.

The bench has fixed March 17 for the next hearing of the case.