Lawyers chase and attack people, cops watch from a safe distance
An auto-rickshaw driver was left with a fractured arm as lawyers allegedly chased and attacked policemen, journalists and civilians in and around Delhi’s district courts on Monday, the first day of their strike organised to protest clashes with the police at Tis Hazari court on Saturday, the police said.
Despite videos showing lawyers purportedly slapping a policeman, thrashing passersby, and vandalising police property, the Delhi Police did not intervene in most of these attacks.
In Tis Hazari court, where a parking dispute on Saturday had triggered a violent clash between the police and lawyers, many police officers restricted themselves either outside the court gates and some stayed locked in the court’s lock-up.
“We haven’t shied away from our duty at Tis Hazari court today, but there is a real danger to our lives. So, we have locked ourselves inside and are ignoring the insulting comments some lawyers are passing at us from time to time,” said a policeman inside the lock-up.
A press release issued by the Bar Council of India on Monday said the videos and images being circulated on social media were meant to “malign the image of the Bar”. The release also surmised that some of those incidents were being manipulated, and cautioned lawyers to be “very cautious” and keep away from “being part of any unruly mob”.
“Overwhelming majority of members of the Bar are peace loving and law abiding citizens,” said the bar.
On Monday, the police received complaints from four victims — all of whom were attacked outside Saket court in south Delhi. “Any decision to convert their complaints into FIRs will depend on whether or not the action can aggravate the volatile situation with the lawyers,” said a police officer on condition of anonymity.
The main demand of the agitating lawyers is the arrest of the policeman who had allegedly fired at the lawyers on Saturday, leaving two of them injured. On Sunday, the Delhi high court had taken suo motu cognisance of the previous day’s violence and ordered the transfer of two senior police officers, the suspension of two other officers and compensation to the lawyers injured in the clash.
On Monday, most of the incidents witnessed were outside Saket court. One video showed a policeman in uniform getting cornered, allegedly by lawyers, who slapped him repeatedly, even elbowing him at one point. As the policeman tried to ride away, one of them hurled a helmet at his motorcycle.
A police officer identified that policeman as a constable posted in the south district. “The policeman has submitted a written complaint, but we are yet to act on it,” an officer said.
“Around the same time, the lawyers thrashed an auto driver with iron rods for driving his three-wheeler on a stretch of road where the movement of traffic was blocked by them. The driver, Ravi Prakash, who lives in Shahpur Jat, was left with a fractured right arm,” said the officer, adding that a written complaint has been received from him too.
Another video showed a group of lawyers forcibly bringing down a signboard of a police post in Saket while another group got hold of a man who was apparently recording a video of the vandalism. The victim, who was a client meeting his lawyer outside the court, cried and begged to be let go, but the mob chased and thrashed him, landing punches and slaps. He was seen hugging a lawyer, begging him to save him. The man was left with tattered clothes and a smashed cellphone.
Such was the fear at that spot that a passerby was heard pleading that he hadn’t recorded another video while another passerby was heard blaming someone else of making videos. “Some lawyers later smashed CCTV cameras at the same police post. They have been making efforts to destroy evidence of any sort,” a police officer said.
The police said there were a total of 700-800 lawyers who formed small groups as they allegedly vandalised a Parakram van (an anti-terror police vehicle) outside Select Citywalk mall in Saket, prevented people from entering the courts, blocked traffic at many points, broke or snatched cellphones and burnt tyres and effigies.
The situation was relatively better at Tis Hazari court where hundreds of lawyers staged protests inside the court premises at first, before briefly blocking the road outside. People recording videos of their protest were forced to delete the files.
At both the courts, journalists were allegedly manhandled or misbehaved with for making videos of the agitation or on the grouse that the voices of the advocates were not given prominence. “One news channel has referred to us as ‘goondas’ (goons),” said an agitating lawyer at Tis Hazari court.
While senior officers serving with the Delhi Police refused to comment, some retired officers and those posted in other union territories said the events on Monday would diminish the morale of the police force and the fear of the law among the public.
Neeraj Kumar, the former police commissioner, said the video of the policeman being beaten up gave the impression that “there is no rule of law and the police are people meant to be beaten up”.
“There is no rule of law and the police seem redundant. This is a most reprehensible situation and something needs to be done urgently. Also, if one section (advocates) of the society doesn’t bother about the law, all other people will think why should they care about the law,” said Kumar.
Another IPS officer, Aslam Khan, who has served in the national capital, took to Twitter to question the Delhi Police’s response to the incidents. “Khaki going down to the worse,” she tweeted while sharing the video of a policeman getting beaten up.