|Rediff India Abroad Home | All the sections|
Lawyers provoked Madras HC violence: SC Committee
March 06, 2009 20:04 IST
The provocation of violence in the Madras high court was started by the lawyers and the police later went "berserk", the Supreme Court-appointed committee has said while holding that the judges had followed a "soft- pedalling policy" leading to the "piquant situation".
The provocation and violence on February 19 was started by the "unruly mob of lawyers" but "once the police got into action, there was no stopping them" and they went "berserk" and damaged the court properties, Justice B N Srikrishna, a retired apex court judge, said in his report.
"My view, albeit prima facie, is that the soft-pedalling policy followed by the Madras High Court judges has led to the present piquant situation," he said in his 22-page interim report submitted before a bench headed by Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan on Thursday.
The report perused by the three-judge bench, which also comprised Justices P Sathasivam and J M Panchal, was referred to the Madras high court and Tamil Nadu government for taking appropriate action including setting up of a judicial inquiry under the commission of Inqiry Act.
Justice Srikrishna, who expressed his unwillingness to continue with further inquiry, said "unless a detailed inquiry is made into the role played by each of the lawyers in the rioting mob as well as each of the constables and or officers of the police force, it will be difficult to pin-point the responsibility on the individuals".
Justice Srikrishna went into the background of the strike called in protest by lawyers to the Sri Lankan government's policy against the banned outfit and termed the soft-pedalling policy of the acting chief justice as "unfortunate".
Some of the lawyers "sympathised" with the cause of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. "It is most unfortunate that the soft policy adopted by the acting chief justice of the high court and its administration sent out clearly wrong message that encouraged and emboldened the lawyers into becoming law breakers," the report said.
The lawyers behaved as "hooligans" and "miscreants" but the police, which was justified quelling the unruly and rioting mob of lawyers by use of force, went "much beyond what was permissible use of force," said the report prepared after examining written representations and CDs on the incident.
"The lawyers appear to have been encouraged by the wrong signals sent out and seemed to think that they could do anything and get away within the court premises. Regretfully, far from being the upholders of the rule of law, the lawyers seem to have behaved as hooligans and miscreants," the report elaborated.
"The incidents that transpired over a last month or so make it clear that the lawyers seemed to be under the impression that, because they are officers of the court, they are immune from the process of law and that they could get away with any unlawful act without being answerable to the law enforcing agency," the report said.
Justice Srikrishna, who gave clean chit to the Chennai police commissioner on the issue of police excesses, said "as far as commissioner of police is concerned, I do not think that any blame can be laid at his door".
Further, the retired judge also did not specifically named the police officers, who were responsible for the use of excess force on the lawyers indulging in stone throwing and putting on fire the police station inside the high court area.
"There is no material suggesting that any of the officers had directed or ordered the policemen to behave in the atrocious manner in which they behaved," the report said.
"In my view, the circumstances facing the police on the fateful day on February 19, without doubt, justified quelling the unruly and rioting mob of lawyers by use of force, but the police went much beyond what was permissible use of force," it said.
"They indulged in wanton lathi blows to lawyers, who were not even resisting or being violent, wanton destruction of property, both inside the compound as well as the court premises and in then chambers of lawyers inside and outside the court complex," the report added.