While the common man in Delhi has been gasping for breath, a tiff between the lawyers and the police hit the whole media like a storm. We saw many videos on the national TV showing the lawyers taking the law into their own hands, vandalising public property and taking to roads over a mere parking issue.
The lawyers claimed that a scuffle broke out with the Delhi Police when they were denied parking space in Tis Hazari court on November 2. The argument turned into violence when the police officers heckled them and opened fire. On the contrary, the police claimed that a large group of lawyers responded angrily to the request made by the on-duty police to shift a car that was parked in front of the undertrials’ lockup.
Subsequent newspaper reports show that a rumour that the cops had attacked a lawyer inside the lockup and was beaten up triggered the violence. The lawyers allegedly went on rampage, beating up several police officers, setting many vehicles on fire, including two belonging to the police. Around 30 people were injured in the incident. People from the media were also manhandled.
We could hardly forget the Tiz Hazari incident about which a video went viral. The video shows an on-duty cop on a bike being beaten up by a lawyer. The policeman had to run away to save his life! This incident took place in front of the Saket court complex.
Another tiff happened in Karkardooma court. Several advocates thrashed a police officer, who was trying to manage the traffic jam outside the court. A similar incident was reported from Rajasthan.
The incidents show the lawyers in a poor light, to say the least. When the matter came up in the Delhi High Court, the judiciary seemed to favour the lawyers, directing the transfer of a couple of police officers and suspension of another two. The first information report clearly mentioned the involvement of lawyers. Yet, the judiciary did not take any action against them.
The High Court simply said, “No action would be taken against the lawyers, even if the FIR mentioned their involvement”. Now what forbids the court to do so? Only the court can answer. If our judiciary can take a biased decision, favouring their fellow colleagues, then how can a common man expect a fair decision!
This did not go down well with the police. We saw the cops taking to the streets, demanding justice. This certainly was not a usual sight. Never before have we seen the police personnel, asking for their share of respect and dignity. We saw a policeman crying and pleading, “I can’t face my son, who is a grown-up adult now. We were trained to protect others. But now our own safety and dignity are at stake”.
Another cop said, “We have undergone strict training. We stay away from our families, just to maintain law and order. Why should we be disrespected, simply because a set of people, have acquired law degrees? Are they above the law?” Another woman said: “People don’t realise the kind of danger we are put through every day. If we can't save ourselves, then how will we fulfil our responsibility of protecting others? We are human beings, too, and we must be treated with respect.”
Senior police officers took to twitter for registering their protest. I am sorry... we are police ... we don’t exist... we don’t have families… we don’t have human rights” tweeted IPS Madhur Verma. Another said, “Khakhi going down to the worse. We are mere punching bags.”
That is the kind of frustration amongst the police officers. Why should it not be there? Yet, after a few hours, they called off the protest, as their chief promised that their demands would be met. Their demands, essentially included, a review petition to be filed with the Delhi High Court and justice and support for their fellow colleagues, who got injured in the incident.
The commissioner pleaded, “We have to behave like a disciplined force. The government and the people expect us to uphold the law, it is our big responsibility. The last few days have been a testing time for us. A judicial enquiry is underway and I request you to have faith in the process.” Within a few minutes, the police personnel went back to their duties.
On the other hand, the lawyers, who have been on strike, did not care two hoots about the general public. The courts were not allowed to function. A lock was put on the Saket court. The media reports showed the way people were treated in the courts. They were not allowed to enter the premises. In fact, one of the advocates, announced, “you all will be given new dates for hearing. A list will be put up for all the cases”. Now, how can an advocate decide on that? Is the judiciary in the hands of a few advocates?
The reports showed poor people pleading “we have lost one day’s wage. Who will compensate us?” Another elderly lady was seen crying, feeling helpless and dejected. Her pleas fell on deaf ears. Clearly, things are not straight.
The ministry of home affairs filed an application seeking clarification on the high court order issued on November 3 directing that no coercive action will be taken against any lawyer. The petition was dismissed. Does it mean that even the judiciary does not understand the contribution of the police in society?
It is important to mention a recent incident that happened in “energy–capital” of the world – Houston. A Sikh cop was brutally murdered by an offender in Texas. The cop had a dashcam, which helped the investigators in nabbing the culprit, who is likely to face death sentence. The news had made headlines even in India.
It was shocking for the Americans as it was for the Indians, especially in Punjab. The newspapers in Houston carried rave articles in his memory. Tens of thousands of people attended his funeral. Not only this, local Americans raised more than one million dollars to help his family. That is the kind of respect an Indian-American cop got in America.
Had he served as a cop in India, no one would have even paid homage. Of course, his colleagues, family members and relatives would have attended his funeral. Our newspapers would have carried may be a one-column or two-column story with a mug-shot of the cop. No one would have thought of helping his family like the way the people did in America. He would not have had a dashcam or a camera. It would have been certainly difficult to get hold of the culprit. Even if he was found, the case would have lingered on for years together. Does it not ring alarm bells?
Our respected lawyers, who have the solemn obligation of resolving disputes, giving proper legal advice, guiding people for legal compliance, helping them in obtaining justice, cannot respect fellow citizens, who enforce law! It is unbecoming of them to take the law into their hands, behaving like hooligans, meting out summary justice by assaulting whomsoever they want to. The way they treated the general public in the courts did not redound to their credibility or professionalism.
Grudges between lawyers and police personnel are age-old. Lawyers tend to act as if they are not governed by rules. So do police officers. It is also a fact that all are not corrupt. They deserve respect for the sacrifices they do every day to make sure that we are safe. Do they not? A question our fellow lawyers should ponder on beyond legal provisions.
(The writer, a company secretary, can be reached at email@example.com.)
(Published on 11th November 2019, Volume XXXI, Issue 46)