18 lawyers arrested for collector ‘assault’

Police on Thursday morning arrested 18 lawyers of Sambalpur, including the president and the secretary of the bar association, for their involvement in the assault on Sambalpur collector Mrinalini Darswal on Monday.

They were granted bail later in the afternoon by the Judicial Magistrate. Police identified them as Pramod Rath (bar association president) Bijitendriya Pradhan (secretary), senior member Paresh Sharma, Barada Madhab Guru, Pradeep Bohidar, Sabbir Ahmed, Abhaya Nayak, Arabind Nayak, Rangeya Sarangi, Suraj Biswal, Rabi Pujari, Dilip Bishi, Dinesh Pandey, Mahendra Badhai, Saroj Beura, Chandrakant Mahanty, Rajib Sathpathy and Sanjib Sarangi.

“We have arrested 18 lawyers on Tuesday for their involvement in two incidents of assault on the Sambalpur collector and the district sub-registrar. While 16 lawyers were involved in the first incident, four were involved in the second incident. Two lawyers were present during both the attacks,” additional SP (Sambalpur) Dilip Kumar Deo said.

Members of the bar association staged a demonstration in front of the court room after the lawyers were arrested. The lawyers felt police took the step under pressure from the government. “When cases have been registered against both sides, police arrested only the advocates. This is totally unjustified,” senior lawyer Sureswar Mishra said.

Later, the arrested lawyers came in a procession from the residence of SDJM Malabika Bhuyan after being released on bail. “She was pleased to grant us bails in the afternoon,” president of the bar association Pramod Rath said.

According to senior lawyers of the Sambalpur bar, the SDJM took liberal attitude towards advocates while granting them bail as a case was already pending against the complainant of the case. “The lawyers are officers of the court. I know them personally. They are peace lovers. As revealed from the case record and mentioned by their lawyer, a case has been initiated against the collector too. So I am inclined to release them on bail,” a senior lawyer of Sambalpur said quoting the SDJM. The incident has triggered widespread tension among lawyers of the state. Several bar associations including those from the high court have decided to stage ‘cease work’ protesting against the arrest of the lawyers.

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