Black coats strike back, city courts in lockdown

On Wednesday, hearing a petition filed by the ministry of home affairs (MHA) on the Tis Hazari clash, the Delhi high court declined to offer a clarification or modification of its Sunday order saying that it was ‘self-explanatory’.
Protesting lawyers put locks on the entry gates of the Patiala House court on Wednesday.(Amal KS/ HT Photo)
Protesting lawyers put locks on the entry gates of the Patiala House court on Wednesday.(Amal KS/ HT Photo)
Updated on Nov 07, 2019 12:20 AM IST
Copy Link
Hindustan Times, New Delhi | ByShiv Sunny, Adrija Roy Chowdhury and Karn Pratap Singh

Lawyers in the six Delhi district courts boycotted work for the third day in a row on Wednesday, prevented litigants from entering some of the premises, and staged demonstrations, including two ostensible suicide attempts, as members of the police force returned to work a day after staging an unprecedented protest outside their own headquarters.

The Bar Council of India (BCI) came down hard on the police, saying the protest on Tuesday seemed to be “politically motivated”, termed it the “darkest day in the history of independence”, and demanded the arrest of police officers involved in Saturday’s Tis Hazari clash within a week.

Proceedings at Patiala House Court, Tis Hazari District Court, Karkardooma District Court, Saket District Court, Dwarka District Court and Rohini District Court were under a lockdown as the lawyers pursued their strike to protest the police’s use of force on members of their fraternity on Saturday. The courts are expected to remain in lockdown on Thursday.

“Abstinence from work in all district courts tomorrow. In order to ensure success of movement, all are requested to maintain movement peacefully. Litigants may be permitted to have access to court rooms,” Dhir Singh Kasana, the general secretary of the coordination committee of all district bar associations in Delhi, said in a statement directed at lawyers across all district courts.

“There are no police officials inside. Who will do the security check of the litigants? There may be some criminals among them too,” he added.

On Wednesday, hearing a petition filed by the ministry of home affairs (MHA) on the Tis Hazari clash, the Delhi high court declined to offer a clarification or modification of its Sunday order saying that it was “self-explanatory”.

The order had asked Delhi Police to not take any coercive action against lawyers while directing Patnaik to transfer special commissioner Sanjay Singh and additional deputy police commissioner Harendra Singh. The court also appointed a judicial inquiry panel to probe the clash. Effectively, it restricts the police from taking any coercive action against lawyers over Saturday’s clash, but gives a nod to go ahead and act against the perpetrators of the violence on Monday.

Two lawyers in Rohini District Court, in northwest Delhi, ostensibly tried to kill themselves, one dousing himself with petrol before he was stopped by his colleagues, according to eyewitness accounts. Another lawyer threatened to jump off the top of a building in the complex before eventually coming down. The first, Ashish Choudhary, said he was upset because the “reputation of lawyers has been tarnished”, while the second, Rohit Pathak, said his action was a response to “the abuse for lawyers on social media”.

A police officer who asked not to be named said the two “neither alerted any policemen nor did anyone make a call to PCR (police control room)”.

As the lawyer-police-standoff persisted, Delhi’s lieutenant governor Anil Baijal held a meeting with police commissioner Amulya Patnaik and other top officers on Wednesday. It was officially stated to be a routine meeting on law and order. Baijal was also briefed about Tuesday’s protest by the police.

The protesting lawyers did not appear to be in a mood to relent in the confrontation triggered when a dispute over a lawyer parking his car at the Tis Hazari complex flared into violence, including a police baton charge and at least two shots fired. Twenty-one policemen and eight lawyers were injured in the clash, according to the police count.

BCI chairman Manan Kumar Mishra said in a statement that the council earlier asked the Bar Association of Delhi to call off the strike, but after seeing Delhi Police’s conduct, it cannot “sit tight over the matter”. The council alleged that the policemen remained “absent from duty, shouted slogans, used filthy language” and openly threatened to “smash and kill lawyers”.

The BCI, in its letter, also demanded the formation of a high-level committee to find out who were involved in “planning the illegal protest of police yesterday”.

“Our demand is to arrest the guilty police officials within a period of one week, failing which we shall resort to peaceful dharna for the arrest of these people and for proper disciplinary action against them. The Bar stands united,” said the BCI statement.

Around 3,000 policemen and policewomen took part in Tuesday’s protest, a demonstration of anger over an assault on members of the force by lawyers at the Saket district court on Monday and an expression of their resentment over senior officers for not rising to their support. One policeman on a motorbike was captured in a video being repeatedly slapped and elbowed by lawyers.

The junior and mid-level Delhi Police personnel who protested on Tuesday put forth multiple demands before their senior officers, particularly the police chief Patnaik. These included action against lawyers, a direction for the formation of a union for non-gazetted officers, and the revocation of a high court order suspending and transferring police officers.

Referring to their demand for the formation of a union, the BCI said it was not legally permissible.

Rakesh Khanna, president of the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) also urged the court to stop the media reporting of the matter. He argued that the media was not showing a correct picture. “People in media debates are saying that judges have passed a biased order. This is contempt. Media should be restrained from covering this case/incident,” he said.

(With inputs from agencies)

SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
Topics
Close Story
SHARE
Story Saved
OPEN APP
×
Saved Articles
Following
My Reads
Sign out
New Delhi 0C
Monday, December 06, 2021