Lawyers in a dilemma as courts reopen

HUBLI, JULY 12. Although judicial officers are in their seats, courts are yet to begin functioning as lawyers are continuing their boycott demanding establishment of a Bench of the Karnataka High Court.

The judicial officers came to the courts on Monday under police escort. The lawyers had been preventing them from entering the court ever since they started an agitation more than three weeks ago.

The judicial officers are adjourning the cases in the absence of lawyers. But it may not be long before the judges start taking serious note of the absence of lawyers, since each of them is supposed to observe norms relating to disposal of cases, which they have not been able to do because of the strike.

The courts in Dharwad remained closed for an indefinite period last year, when the Dharwad Bar Association launched a movement demanding a High Court Bench. The President of the Bar Association of Dharwad, Mr. B. D. Hiremath, and six of his colleagues, had undertaken a ``hunger strike''. The situation was sensitive, and the authorities in Bangalore allowed the courts to remain closed rather than seek their forceful opening. In Hubli too, the courts remained closed due to the lawyers' strike on this issue.

However, this time, the judges have been able to enter the courts not only in Hubli-Dharwad but also elsewhere in the region where lawyers are on strike. The question is whether the lawyers would continue their boycott risking ex-parte decisions on the pending cases, or start attending the courts in the interest of their clients.

Both the Government and the Karnataka High Court were considerate to the striking lawyers and refrained from taking any action to precipitate matters, despite the lawyers preventing entry of the judicial officers into the courts. The judicial officers had not sought help from the police. What apparently prompted the authorities to take action was the inconvenience caused to the litigants.

The lawyers themselves are not sure about their course of action. They cannot boycott the courts for an indefinite period at a time when the courts are open. And, if the courts are allowed to function, they would not be able to bring pressure. It was at a meeting of the representatives of the Bar associations of North Karnataka in Hubli on July 1 that they decided to boycott the courts till the end of this month, and any review of the decision will have to be taken by the joint action committee of the associations. A meeting is likely to be called soon. The Dharwad Bar Association is awaiting the meeting of the joint action committee of the Bar associations of North Karnataka for deciding its course of action.

The Bar Association of Hubli, which has got the support of several organisations, has convened a meeting of these organisations on July 14.

Meanwhile, serious differences of opinion have arisen between the Bar Association of Hubli, which is demanding establishment of a High Court Bench, and the Dharwad Bar Associations, which is seeking a separate State of Uttara Karnataka. The Dharwad Bar Association has not taken kindly to the attitude of its Hubli counterpart. It has been pointed out that while 63 members of the Dharwad Bar Association were arrested for preventing the judges from entering the courts, the members of the Bar Association of Hubli took recourse to ``passive resistance''. The latter have been accused of having avoided courting arrest.