OPINION
LAWYERS VS POLICE
Justice, like charity, must begin at home
- VIPIN PUBBY
Justice, like charity, must begin at home




The recent clash between lawyers and policemen in the national capital and the subsequent merciless beating up of individual policemen and even litigants by unruly lawyers is not just a matter of shame but of serious concern.

Videos of a section of lawyers acting like goons and pouncing on policemen in uniform have gone viral and have shocked the common people. All this led to an unprecedented protest by hundreds of policemen and their family members near the Police headquarters in Delhi.

It all started with a minor incident between a lawyer and a constable over parking of a vehicle in the Tis Hazari court complex on Saturday. Soon a large number of lawyers gathered in support of their colleague and additional police forces reached the site. Heated arguments led to a clash which left about 20 policemen and eight lawyers injured.
 
Lawyers, who claimed that some shots were also fired by police, also damaged several vehicles parked in the area. The ugly incidents did not end there. Videos shot at different locations show them targeting individual policemen and civilians and beating them.
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All this while senior police officers failed to intervene and the governments, both the central government and the Delhi government, did not condemn or tried to resolve the dispute. Senior police officers did not give permission even for filing an FIR.

On the other hand the Delhi High Court gave a partisan and one sided directive that no coercive action would be taken against the lawyers who indulged in violence. At the same time the high court directed suspension and transfer of some of the policemen. Such a directive was apparently not fair and generated resentment among the policemen and the general public.

Advocates and police force are two pillars of law and order machinery. They are protectors and defenders of law. They have interdependent relationship and they are expected to uphold the rule of law. Instead of their sacred duty if they try to become law unto themselves, it is a sure sign of the the collapse of law and order machinery.
 
While it is rare that policemen come out in such large numbers to protest despite the provisions in service conditions that they cannot form a union or hold protests, there have been several incidents of lawyers taking law in their hands. A recent example was the beating up of journalists and litigants when Kanhaiya Kumar was to be produced in the Patiala House Court in 2016. Prior to that lawyers had indulged in hooliganism in Hyderabad and had held public to ransom.
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Higher judiciary must come down with a heavy hand on the lawyers who indulged in merciless beating of policemen. Justice, like charity, must begin at home.
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It is also well known how the lawyers tend to go on strike and force closures of courts at the drop of a hat. There have been dozens of such instances in Chandigarh and neighbouring states which put litigants to a lot of inconvenience.

Lawyers are called "officers of the court” because they are supposed to help the court to deliver fair judgement. Unfortunately some lawyers, and particularly the "briefless lawyers” who do not get cases to fight, do not appear to understand and appreciate their role in the society. They think they are above the law.

It is time such lawlessness is nipped in the bud. Disaffection among police forces and can pose a serious threat to the rule of law and senior officers must intervene to assuage their hurt feelings. It is an irony that the protectors of law are left to defend themselves. At the same time any police personnel who indulges in use of excessive force need also to be punished. Neither the police personnel can manhandle anyone nor the lawyers can behave like goons.


All eyes would now be on the appeal filed against the Delhi high court judgement which was evidently not fair. Higher judiciary must come down with a heavy hand on the lawyers who indulged in merciless beating of policemen. They can be easily identified through videos. Justice, like charity, must begin at home. 

 

*(The author, a freelance journalist, is a former Resident Editor of Indian Express, Chandigarh, and reported on the political developments in Jammu and Kashmir, North-Eastern India, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana and Punjab in his long, illustrious career.) 



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