By Sanjeev Sirohi*
In the aftermath of the most unfortunate ugly violence that broke loose at Tis Hazari court on November 2 between lawyers and police which left many injured, the Delhi High Court without wasting any time on November 3 very rightly constituted a judicial committee to conduct an enquiry within six weeks into November 2 violence. Retired Justice SP Garg will be the head of this judicial committee. He will be assisted by Director (Intelligence Bureau), Director (Central Bureau of Investigation) and Director (Vigilance).
The Delhi High Court while taking this ugly violence between lawyers and police most seriously wasted no time in directing the Delhi Police Commissioner to transfer two senior officers – Special Commissioner of Police (law and order) Sanjay Singh and Additional Deputy Commissioner of Police Harendra Kumar Singh for ordering the firing in which two lawyers got injured as they suffered bullet injury and for their alleged role in this incident.
Just transferring these two senior police officers to some other place is not enough. They must be held accountable and punished adequately if they are really guilty of ordering firing on lawyers or in any other manner! Allowing police officers to escape lightly in such cases only serves to send a wrong message that police officers can get away even after indulging in wrong doing and this can never be approved of under any circumstances in a democratic country like India!
But most shamefully this is what we see happening in our country mostly. Police have no right to beat anyone on the slightest provocation and they too are bound by law just like lawyers! But what we see on ground is just the reverse!
What is worse is they are not given life term or death penalty for custodial deaths and are allowed to get away just by transfer or suspension for a brief time! Why violence by police is taken so casually in India? If lawyers resort to violence then a lot of brouhaha is made by media but when it comes to police the reaction is most lukewarm! This is what is most condemnable!
Taking suo motu cognisance of media reports, a Bench of Chief Justice DN Patel and Justice C Hari Shankar urgently held court on afternoon of November 3 while issuing notices to the authorities to be present for hearing at 3 pm. It must be mentioned here that a suo motu proceeding is initiated when the court deems some issue to be important that needs urgent hearing. The Delhi High Court Bench directed Delhi Police Commissioner Amulya Patnaik to suspend two Assistant Sub Inspectors who allegedly dragged an advocate inside the lock-up and beat him up and another for shooting at the lawyers.
How can advocates be dragged like hooligans? Are lawyers hooligans? How can the lawyers be fired upon as if they are criminals and terrorists? How can police ignore that even in case of criminals and terrorists, they don’t fire until and unless the criminals or terrorists don’t fire on them? How can police ruthless action be justified by any sane person under any circumstances?
We all saw lawyers losing their cool and beating policemen. This is because of the way police treated lawyers that lawyers lost their calm which they normally don’t lose. Media only shows lawyers beating policemen but rarely shows policemen roughing up lawyers as if they were hooligans and firing at them without any just cause! This is where the real rub lies! This only serves to evoke too much sympathy for police and contempt for lawyers which cannot be justified under any circumstances.
How can lawyers retain their calm if police opens fire on lawyers? How can lawyers retain their calm if police misbehaves with lawyers as if they were criminals and terrorists? How can lawyers retain their calm when their fellow lawyers are brutally fired at and beaten by police?
How can lawyers retain their calm when police personnel lathi-charged lawyers as if they were some rogues and scoundrels? How can lawyers retain their calm when police personnel vandalized their chambers? How can lawyers retain their calm when police did not spare even women lawyers as is being alleged? Assam Bar Council member Khushboo Verma who was at the Tis Hazari court said that she too was attacked by policemen while protesting against the incident! Can this be also dismissed lightly?
It merits no reiteration that violence under no circumstances can ever be justified but if we have to take a holistic view of this entire episode then we must admit that it was police who first roughed up lawyers and even fired at lawyers! The details even we don’t know fully but it is being shown in all news channels that it was police who started the fight over parking and even fired at lawyers! This barbarism on the part of police is most condemnable!
It cannot be lost on us that this high handedness on the part of the police prompted the Delhi High Court Bench to suspend two Assistant Sub Inspectors who allegedly dragged an advocate inside the lock-up and beat him up and another for shooting at lawyers as mentioned above and also order an ex-gratia payment of Rs 50,000 to Vijay Verma, Rs 25,000 to Ranjit Malik and Rs 10,000 for Pawan Kumar Dubey as these three lawyers were badly injured during the police firing on November 2. It asked the Delhi government to provide all possible medical help to the injured lawyers.
How can lawyers be expected to be calm if police behaves in such a disgraceful manner and beat their fellow lawyers in front of them and even fire at them? Why do we forget that even lawyers are human beings and they have not descended from another planet that they will never lose their cool even if their fellow lawyers are brutally beaten up, locked up and fired upon by police without any cross firing? All of us must think on it with a dispassionate mind and the reason why lawyers lost their cool are not far to seek!
The Delhi High Court Bench said that there would be no coercive action against the lawyers in connection with the FIRs registered against them by the Delhi Police. The Chief Justice of Delhi High Court – DN Patel asked Delhi Police how many FIRs were registered, to which Rahul Mehra who appeared for the Delhi government and Delhi police said that four FIRs were registered and one will be registered today. He also said that an FSL team was at Tis Hazari court and that an SIT has been constituted under a DCP. He further said that the ASI who took the lawyer to the lock-up has been suspended and that the Special CP Vigilance is also conducting an independent internal departmental enquiry to take further action against any suspended police officers.
When the Chief Justice asked if any FIR was lodged at the behest of the injured advocates, police informed the court that statements of only some of them have been recorded and the rest would be recorded today. The Delhi High Court ordered the Delhi Police Commissioner to record statements of the injured advocates. It was also ordered that an FIR be registered immediately and copies supplied to the court.
Meanwhile, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal visited the injured lawyers at St Stephen’s Hospital. In a tweet, he said that, “Yesterday’s incident was unfortunate…the way lawyers were fired at, I condemn it. I met the two persons who were injured in firing, they are stable now. All of their medical expenses will be covered by Delhi government.” It is heartening to note that even Kejriwal has condemned the ruthless manner in which the police fired at lawyers. Were they criminals or terrorists? Even criminals are not fired upon in such a brazen manner when they don’t have weapons! Why is this not being discussed in media? Why only lawyers anger in beating policemen is repeatedly being showed in media? Media must show the full truth and not just the half-truth with several twists and turns in it!
Senior advocate Mohit Mathur who is President of Delhi High Court Bar Association told the court that, “By saying one person fired gunshot, they (police) are putting forward a scapegoat to protect their team.” Lawyers certainly don’t carry weapons in court. So where does the question of lawyers firing at police arise? Mohit Mathur also rightly said that police are not allowed to carry fully-loaded weapons to the court complex and claimed that many protocols were flouted. He said that, “Many women lawyers were attacked. One advocate was dragged by 14 police officers to the lock-up..we have been attacked at our workplace.”
What Mohit Mathur who happens to be none other than the President of the Delhi High Court Bar Association has disclosed is most shocking and one is aghast to learn all this! Why were women lawyers attacked by police? Were they also criminals? Does police have birth right to attack woman lawyers whenever they want, wherever they want and as they want?
Why media is totally silent on this? Why one advocate was being dragged by 14 police officers to the lock-up? Was he a terrorist or a dreaded criminal? No, he was an officer of the court yet he was treated like a notorious criminal by the police without assigning any reasons!
Even if the advocate’s car hit a police jail van, this alone cannot be a reason to take him to lockup and beat him badly. Tis Hazari Bar Association Secretary Jaiveer Singh Chauhan while speaking on this said that, “He was taken inside a lockup and beaten up badly. The SHO came but was not allowed inside. The District Judges of the Central and West District along with six other Judges went there but were unable to let the lawyer out.” Why did the police not listen to all these Judges who personally went there? Why when the Judges asked the policemen to allow them to speak with the advocate were they not entertained? Why was the advocate beaten up at the first place as if he was some wanted criminal and not an officer of the court? Will this enhance the reputation of courts and lawyers? If advocate beat police media is very quick to highlight it but when police beats lawyers then why media fails to highlight it? How can police brutal action be condoned on any ground?
Jaiveer Singh Chauhan disclosed that, “We will decide the further course of action after meeting representatives of bar associations. We are getting a lot of support from bar associations of the different states, including Rajasthan, Punjab and Chndigarh. All the lawyers would abstain from work. We are abstaining from work till the time action is taken against the culprits.” Even lawyers of West UP and lawyers of Lucknow went on token strike on November 4 in support and solidarity of lawyers of Tis Hazari who faced police ruthless action including lathis not sparing even women lawyers and bullets also! The Delhi Bar Association called for an indefinite strike and it was also made clear that the strike would spread across the country if no action is initiated against the alleged erring police personnel.
Even the Supreme Court Bar Association has termed the incident an assault on the judicial system and said the accused policemen should compensate for the destruction caused to the chamber of lawyers. Preeti Singh who is Secretary of Supreme Court Bar Association said that, “We would not abstain from work but to show our anguish and solidarity, we will hold a protest march from Supreme Court to India Gate. The lawyers will wear a white band on their arm as a mark of protest.” A representative of the Delhi High Court Bar Association while expressing no faith in Delhi Police said that, “We want some other police to come to the court premises. We don’t want to face Delhi Police.” Very rightly so!
Bar Council of India (BCI) Chairman Manan Kumar Mishra, co-chairman Ved Prakash Sharma also have expressed full solidarity with the lawyers of Tis Hazari. Mishra also requested the L-G and the city’s police commissioner to immediately lodge complaints against the guilty and have them arrested. KC Mittal who is Bar Council of Delhi Chairman told the court that, “The departmental enquiry being conducted by the Special CP is a complete farce.” Vinod Dua who is also a lawyer and has a chamber in Tis Hazari court premises said that he had to hide in one of the chambers. But his is never highlighted in media!
Ikrant Sharma who is senior Vice President of Tis Hazari Bar Association said that they are abstaining from work in all district courts. He urged that CCTV footage be examined to ascertain the role of the real miscreants. He said that, “I would urge that the CCTV footage be examined to see whether it was the lawyer or the police who started the scuffle.” Rahul Dev Sharma who is an advocate said that, “When the word spread, we asked the police to release him. When they refused, it led to a clash during which a policeman fired at us.”
There can be no gainsaying that truth must come out and all those who are guilty must be punished most strictly. Policemen had no business to fire on lawyers. They also had no business to lock up lawyer just because his vehicle hit a police jail van and most crucially when Judges also arrived there and requested them to meet them, they should have at least allowed this and ideally should have promptly released the lawyer also in this case!
All those responsible for the violence must be sternly dealt with. Burning of vehicles, firing at lawyers, lathicharging even woman lawyers among other shameful incidents cannot be condoned under any circumstances! Let’s wait and watch what is concluded by the Judicial Committee which has been set up exclusively for this purpose! One hopes earnestly that those who were behind this ugly brawl would be dealt with most strictly and not allowed to get away lightly under any circumstances!
*Advocate based in Meerut, Uttar Pradesh