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Chennai law college clash: Panel slams police laxity

india Updated: Jul 21, 2009 17:46 IST
Hindustan Times
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Remember the repeated television grabs of a hapless law college student in tattered clothes in Chennai being mercilessly clobbered by a violent mob in full view of people and watching cops in a shocking act of barbarity in November 2008?

That “stone-age clash” between two groups of students at the Dr Ambedkar Government Law College last year in which four of them were critically injured, was a sequel to a feuding caste row when one group of OBC students, celebrating the birth anniversary of their leader and late freedom fighter, Pasumponn Muthuramalinga Thevar, in the college had left out the word ‘Dr Ambedkar’ in the posters for that event.

The Dalit students took this as a “deliberate insult to the architect of the Constitution of India, a Dalit leader,” and that was the “starting point” for the clash, the Justice P Shanmugham Commission of Inquiry constituted by the DMK government to inquire into the causes and circumstances of the violence has found, while slamming the State Police “for non-performance of duty at the crucial time leading to the clash.”

Rejecting the argument that police that day waited for the principal’s permission to enter the college campus, Justice Shanmugham, in his report tabled in the Tamil Nadu Assembly today, cited a Kerala High Court order which held that police could enter an educational institution to disperse an unlawful assembly even without prior nod.

“The discharge of these duties imposed by law on the Police officers cannot be made to depend on the permission of any private person or authority,” the Kerala High Court had said. This principle “applies in all force to the facts
of this case,” said Justice Shanmugham, pinning down the crucial lapses to three police officials on duty then- K Narayanamoorthy, ACP High Court Range, M Sekar Babu, then Inspector of Police, and E Perumal, the sub-inspector at the concerned police station.

While these Police officials had failed to act at the critical juncture when the mob violence broke out in the Law College campus, the Commission report says, “the SI, Mr. E. Perumal and other police men posted at the Middle gate were simply watching the merciless attack on the students without making a slightest attempt to prevent the attack and rescue the injured.”

“There is overwhelming evidence to show that if Police had intervened ten minutes earlier, the clash would not have occurred,” the report said, adding,the Police failed to enter the campus earlier and remove the armed students to avert the clash. Based on the findings, the State has initiated disciplinary action against the three police officials.

The Commission has also made several suggestions to improve the quality of legal education in Tamil Nadu, which it said “is not in good shape due to many reasons.” It urged that the State Government start a ‘Law School’ on the lines of the National Law School in Bangalore to make legal education more professional,and the present Law College in Chennai should be converted into a Post-Graduate Study Centre for Law.

The Justice Shanmugham Commission has also prescribed better hostel facilities, admissions strictly on merit basis and even suggested that Law students be made to “wear uniforms” to create an identity with the Institution.