STATESMAN NEWS SERVICE
Sambalpur/Bolangir, 24 October
In a major setback to the urban local body elections scheduled for 22 November in western parts of the state, the Central Action Committee of bar association across seven districts today decided to stick to its old stand of “No Court, No Vote” (based on their demand for a permanent bench of the High Court in western Odisha).
The decision puts paid to hopes of Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik that his spree of announcements ostensibly to mollify the hurt sentiments of the region.
The state election commission had been forced to defer urban local body elections in nine districts of western Odisha in September due to a 40 day prolonged strike by lawyers. The agitation was backed by all major political parties including the ruling BJD.
Mr Patnaik had inexplicably waited for the ULB&’s polls to be over in other parts of the state before writing his letter of recommendation for HC bench to Union Law Minister Kapil Sibal. He followed this up with announcements like upgrading Sambalpur and Rourkela municipalities to municipal corporations.
All this did not cut ice as the Central Action Committee spearheading the agitation met at Jharsuguda today and asserted that it will boycott the elections, fresh dates to which had been announced by the state election commission.
“The bar associations will discuss with the civil society, leaders of all political parties and social organisations of their respective locality and execute the decision of ‘No Court, No Vote’,” said Sureswar Mishra, member of the Central Action Committee.
The letter of Union Minister of Law and Communication, Kapil Sibal to the state government saying that the views of the Chief Justice of the High Court is sacrosanct in such matters and that the CM had failed to be specific in his recommendation on location of the bench was also discussed in the meeting of the Central Action Committee.
“We demand the state government to send a comprehensive proposal to the Union government for the establishment of high court bench. If the state government does not take appropriate steps in this regard, we will intensify our agitation,” said Mr Mishra. (Interestingly, the state government, the ruling BJD and its president Naveen Patnaik have all been silent on Sibal&’s reply to the CM. In fact Finance Minister Prasanna Acharya today feigned ignorance over any such letter)
A delegation of the CAC will also meet the Chief Justice of High Court and Chief Minister in this regard, Mr Mishra added.
The CAC also said that this was not the right time to hold the polls as several districts of the state have been devastated by cyclone and floods, and requested the SEC to defer the polls.
Bolangir, Kalahandi and Roukela bar association members did not attend today&’s CAC meeting as they have taken a independent view over the ongoing agitation since day one. A report from Kalahandi said the lawyers there had already announced their decision to boycott the polls. Reports from Bolangir district said the Titlagarh Kriyanustan Committee and Bar association has also decided to boycott the civic election.