For the last five days, Delhi has seen increasingly violent clashes occurring between the city’s lawyers and its police. As the tussle between the preservers and the protectors of justice gets more alarming, here is a look into how these events unfolded over the week.
November 2—The clash thatstarted it
A scuffle broke out between lawyers and the Delhi Police outside the Tis Hazari court complex. The cause of this first scuffle is still unclear- Livemintreported that a minor accident occurred on the collision of two vehicles, while The Hinduclaimed it started from a parking issue. PTI reported that at least 20 security personnel and several advocates were injured.
The Union Home Ministry received a factual report from Delhi Police on the clash whichstated that the Delhi Police has given details of the circumstances leading to Saturday's incident and the action taken after it.
November 3—Delhi HC sits on the matter
In a special sitting held on Sunday, the Delhi High Court also ordered a judicial inquiry into the clash between lawyers and police at Tis Hazari court complex. The bench comprising Chief Justice D N Patel and Justice C Harishankerdirected action against police officials who fired gun shots and delivered lathi blows on lawyers. The Court had also ordered that no coercive action should be taken against lawyers in the FIRs registered against them.
November 4—Tensions rise as lawyers strike
Lawyers at the six district courts in the national capital—Tis Hazari, Karkardooma, Saket, Dwarka, Rohini and Patiala House—boycotted work on Monday.
The Bar Council of India wrote to bar bodies asking them to identify lawyers "indulging in hooliganism" and requested advocates to end their protest, which is "bringing bad name to the institution". Chairman Manan Kumar Mishra said sparing such "rowdy elements" would tarnish the image of the legal institution and the inaction of bar bodies will only encourage these advocates, which would ultimately result in "contempt proceedings by the high courts or Supreme Court".
A video surfaced of a group of lawyers purportedly assaulting a policeman riding a bike outside the Saket court. In the video, the police official is smacked in the face, and has a bike helmet thrown at him.
November 5—Cops protest before HQ
At ITO, New Delhi, thousands of police personnelprotested outside the Police Headquartersagainst the attack on a fellowpolice officer outside the Saket court.Wearing black bands, the scores of personnel were seen with bannersthat said “Protectors Need Protection” and “We Are Not Punching Bags.”
The protesting personnel have demanded the removal of security from courts as well as the filing of FIRs against the involved lawyers.
Delhi’s Police Commissioner Amulya Patnaik addressed the protesting hordes and urged them to resume duty. “We have to behave like a disciplined force. The government and the people expect us to uphold the law; it is our big responsibility,” he said.
The Hindureported that, at 2.45 pm today, two FIRs have been registered in connection with Saket Court incidents. One is based on the officer's complaint and the other based on a cab driver's complaint who was also beaten, says the Delhi Police spokesperson. Noted journalist Ravish Kumar made a public statement, saying that he stands with the Delhi police soldier who was beaten.
Lawyers continued to strike in the six districts. Outside the Karkardooma Court Complex, a group of lawyers huddled to protest the Tis Hazari brawl. A clash broke out between cops and the protesting lawyers when the commotion from the protest created traffic issues and extra police forces were called in. According to India Today, several advocates thrashed a police officer after which the clash broke out.
November 6—Two advocate attempt to commit suicide
The Delhi Police stated that as per their initial inquiry into the Tis Hazari Court incident, the clashes between lawyers and police started after 'false information' was spread among the lawyers.
Meanwhile, at the Rohini District Court, two lawyers allegedly tried to commit suicide. One lawyer doused himself in kerosene and tried to set himself on fire but was stopped by his colleagues.
The lawyers closed the main gates at Patiala House and Saket district courts and did not let litigants access the court premises, citing security reasons.
The Bar Council of India (BCI) announced that it will withdraw its strike and resume work from Thursday but demanded action against cops involved in the scuffle in Tis Hazari court on November 2 while promising action against lawyers found guilty in the clashes.
November 7—Shocking footage found
Representatives of the Bar Associations of Delhi are going to meet senior Police officials at Police Headquarters, ITO at 4 pm today. The meeting is taking place following the Delhi High Court suggesting that both lawyers and Delhi police meet and amicably resolve the dispute.
Earlier today, NDTV reported accessing footage in which lawyers are seen trying to set fire to vehicles outside a room in which a group of policemen had locked themselves in for protection from a mob of lawyers.
Background: Lawyers or Goondas?
On February 15 and 16, 2016, student leader and then president of the JNU Student’s Union, was thrashed brutally by lawyers. Counsel Mihir Desai speaking to Sabrangindia called it a “clear contempt and the Magistrate Court should have initiated proceedings for Criminal Contempt.
While a Magistrate does not have ordinary powers of contempt but when contempt happens in its face, the Court should have immediately acted. Here even the police stood by and watched. Now that the Supreme Court has been approached, we hope for the sternest steps.”
Desai further said, “It is also obvious that these lawyers do not know the law. They are clueless about the law. I say this because none of the statements attributed to Kanhaiya can amount to sedition even under the existing draconian and outdated section of the law, as it exists.”
“Finally I don’t believe that the lawyers were acting out of their love for India. They were acting as the mouthpiece of a particular ideology and with the confidence that the ruling party whose interest they were serving will not haul them up but will actually hail them for what they are doing. This bodes very ill for our democracy.”
Lawyers or Goondas? Choose, You cannot be Both: senior counsel Mihir Desai
How do you police the police – a User’s Guide provides some answers
100 Custodial Deaths Recorded In 2017, But No Convictions