The All India Lawyer Association for Justice (AILAJ) expressed concerns over more than 20 lawyers remaining behind bars for close to two months in Odisha’s Sambalpur district stating that their bail pleas were not being entertained.
These lawyers were accused of barging into courtroom and threatening judicial officers over their demand for a separate Bench of Orissa High Court in the western Odisha town of Sambalpur on December 12, 2022.
The Supreme Court had taken strong exception to the alleged violence and came down heavily on Odisha Police for its failure to maintain law and order. After Odisha Director-General of Police assured the apex court of action, agitating lawyers were picked up based on footage of close circuit television cameras (CCTVs).
“The police took biased action by picking up lawyers and booking them under various stringent Sections of IPC while more than 28,000 people had gathered on the court premise. Their bail pleas have been rejected in lower court while the Orissa HC is sitting over bail petitions of these lawyers,” said Guru Prasad Mohanty, a senior Orissa High Court lawyer who led the AILAJ delegation to Sambalpur. Other members of the delegation were Agasti Kanungo, Dhanoj Kumar Sahoo and Panchasnan Sahoo.
“These lawyers have been in jail for a crime which is bailable. Bail is their right and they are not begging for any favour from anyone. Their cases should be considered on basis of merit,” said Mr. Mohanty.
As the lawyers are in jail, the litigants whom they represent are going through horrible time, he pointed out. Four of the lawyers are women.
The AILAJ also expressed concerns over non-visit of members of other bar associations to jail premises for expressing solidarity. Meanwhile, the Supreme Court refused to take back the contempt cases slapped against these lawyers.