Prisoners demand judicial hearing, threaten fast unto death

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Darjeeling, Jul 15 (UNI) About 74 inmates of Darjeeling jail, including two Czec nationals, have threatened to go on hunger strike if the courts refused to hear them by July 17, a jail police official said here today.

The functioning of the courts in the hills has been seriously affected, despite judges regularly attending the courts for various cases, including criminal ones, as the lawyers are on indefinite strike.

The prisoners, including two Czec entomologists Petr Svacha (51) and Emil Kucera (52), have been denied judicial hearings as members of the Darjeeling Bar Association are on cease work since June 25.

They have been protesting the government's alleged inaction over the Siliguri Bar Association's attempt to transfer files and cases from hills to the plains.

The two Czec Republic nationals were arrested from the Sinhalila National Park, a biodiversity hotspot, here for alleged violation of Wildlife Act on June 22.

The duo had been in jail custody after their arrest for unauthorised collection of butterflies, insects and other endangered species from the protected park. They had collected a large number of endangered and rare butterflies, beetles, larvae, months and other species procted under Wildlife Act.

Meanwhile, Calcutta High Court on July 11 had directed the West Bengal government to file a report within two days on steps beign taken to ensure functioning of judiciacy in the hills.

A Public Interest Litigation has sought the High Court's intervention saying that the judicial system in Darjeeling, Kurseong and Kalimpong had collapsed due to strike by the bar association.


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