Lawyers and police – both challenging rule of law

Over the last two weeks,  the country's capital has become a scene of a disgraceful confrontation.  The police and lawyers of Delhi are involved in a street fight challenging law and order and administration of justice.   More importantly,  all this violence and unusual shutdown of the court have been going on unhindered under the very nose of the union home ministry.  And the confrontation that spills out of Delhi,  brings into focus the degradation of the justice system of the country and the inefficiency of the home ministry. 

The friction between the two started with a car parking issue,  when a lawyer,  Neeraj illegally parked his car in a slot earmarked  for police vehicles bringing detainees to Tis Hazari court,  and the constable on duty blocked him.   The police took into custody Advocate Sagar,  who was with Neeraj, alleging that he made a scuffle with and tried to attack the police,  and put him under lock-up in Tis Hazari police station.  An angered gathering of lawyers became a violent mob,  rammed into the police station,  broke open the lock-up room and tried to free the lawyer when the police prevented it.  That was enough to make the court premises a battle field.

Police vehicles and  cars of lawyers were sest on fire. The attacks left 20 policemen injured and the police shooting hurt two lawyers seriously.  What brought a simple parking issue to such a shameful pass is the hurt ego of policemen and lawyers.   Judges and top police officials,  who should have risen to the occasion and resolved the crisis unfortunately took sides, as a result of which the face off got worsened to the extent of bringing disrepute to the country,  and turned the issue into one not giving in to easy patch-up.

In an attempt to resolve the resultant stalemate,  senior judges of Delhi High Court sat together and discussed the matter,  and ordered a judicial enquiry into the incidents.  The High Court directed taking the lawyer in question into custody and suspending the policemen who triggered the conflict, in addition to transferring high officials.  But the police side view the Court,  which suspended the FIR temporarily,  as acting unilaterally in favour of the lawyers.   It was when matters were at this stage that the lawyers made a protest which turned violent without any provocation. They intercepted a police officer riding a bike outside the Saket court, beat him on his face,  took hostage several officials inside different courts and assaulted them.

During the violence,  mediapersons and even ordinary people travelling by motor bike and auto were also attacked.  Following this, policemen and their families shocked the country by protesting against lawyers' attacks and blockading Delhi Police headquarters. Various police associations and top officers came out in support of the strike by policemen.  On the other side,  bar associations actively came into the picture.   With this,  the conflicts spread outside Delhi too.

The current spectacle is that the common man who approaches different courts in Delhi seeking protection of law,  gets stunned by the law-breaking moves by lawyers and those maintain law and order.  Guards of law come out to the streets and raise slogans for justice.  The people watch in utter disbelief their shouts that courts are becoming a venue of illegality. And the country is witnessing the rare spectacle of the legal system and law-maintaining machinery standing face to face in public to save their 'own' men.

The root of the matter is the self-important feeling of police force and lawyers that they are above law.   The two sections who occupy a high layer of power and law and order,  harbour the notion that they can break law at will.   And Delhi police,  under the control of the Central government, is  as notorious for violations of law as are Delhi's lawyers for violent protests.  The incidents go to prove that even as we have a democratic  form of government,  we still lack a legal system where law is strictly observed or a democratic culture.

In the student agitation of 2016,  lawyers had unjustly attacked students of JNU and mediapersons within the court compound,  in line with sangh parivar interests.  No action has been taken so far against the perpetrators of that violence.  And a report of enquiry led by Kapil Sibal is now resting in the table of the chief justice of Supreme Court.   Widening mistrust of law and order and administration of justice is hardly good news for democracy.  And the continuing conflict between police and lawyers will only lead to a breakdown of governance.

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