In another day of extraordinary events, Jawaharlal Nehru University students union leader Kanhaiya Kumar and some journalists were attacked in a court complex in New Delhi by rowdy lawyers in brazen defiance of the orders of the Supreme Court, which was forced to step in.
Despite instructions by the apex court to ensure security at the Patiala House court, where violent men in black robes had attacked journalists on Monday, Delhi Police failed to prevent the attack on Kumar, accused of sedition, was brought for remand proceedings. On Monday too, journalists were attacked by such elements.
The Supreme Court had earlier in the day directed Delhi Police Commissioner B S Bassi to ensure proper and adequate security at the court complex and also asked the Registrar General of the Delhi high court to be present there.
All that was of no consequence as the rowdy lawyers punched and kicked Kumar, who was escorted by a posse of policemen from the vehicle to court.
A medical examination later revealed that he had suffered abrasions on the face and both the legs.
Even as the violence was being perpetrated in the court complex, senior lawyers Kapil Sibal, Indira Jaising and Prashant Bhushan informed the top court that a tense situation was building up at the Patiala House where a group of lawyers and others were resorting to violence.
Acting swiftly, the Apex court appointed a team of six senior members of the bar to proceed to the Patiala House to report on the situation. The team comprised Sibal, Rajeev Dhawan, Dushyant Dave, A D N Rao, Ajit K Sinha and Haren Rawal.
The lawyers’ team rushed to Patiala House under heavy police escort and had to wade through an angry mob of lawyers who showered abuses on them. They reached the Metropolitan Magistrate Lovleen's court just as the proceedings had wound up but they talked to Kumar.
Lovleen had remanded Kumar to judicial custody till March 2 but the accused had to spend three more hours in the court room as the belligerent lawyers laid siege outside.
Late in the evening, he was taken to Tihar jail where he will be lodged under heavy security.
In the evening, the Apex court, which got an oral report from the lawyers’ team, made it clear that "the responsibility is exclusively that of the Commissioner of Police, Delhi, to ensure the safety of the accused."
"We may place on record that it is reported today by members of the committee that the accused was manhandled while he was produced before the court today." the court said.
The court noted that the plea of advocates that appropriate directions be given in the situation to rescue the accused and his lawyers and even the five journalists who were allowed to attend the proceedings were afraid of their safety.
The lawyers’ team told the Apex court that they were able to reach the court room in police cordon, which was broken by the errant crowd. After meeting Kumar they came to know that he was beaten outside the courtroom and even inside by a person in dark specs, who had made an unauthorised entry had given him a thump.
When they asked DCP Jatin Narwal, he had no answer as to how that person had entered the court room and why he did not stop him or got him arrested when even asked by the accused.
"This particular atmosphere is unprecedented. Police did not do their job. The crowd broke the cordon and threw water bottles and sharp-edged flower pots at us. This is broadly the report," the team said.
"There is a serious threat to the life and safety of the accused this police will be unable to save him," it added.
After listening to them, the apex court bench of J Chelameswar and A M Sapre told the police counsel Ajit K Sinha to inform Bassi that he will be responsible for any untoward incident and ask whether he was in a position ensure full security to Kanhaiya and others.
Sinha got back saying that the Commissioner has assured him that there will be 100 per cent security to Kanhaiya and no harm would be caused to him and he will be safe and secure.
The Apex court bench asked the lawyers team to present their report in writing by 2 pm on Thursday and Sinha was asked to present a report on behalf of Delhi police by 10.30 am.
Meanwhile, Kumar said he is an Indian who has full faith in judiciary and the Constitution, a statement the police latched on to say that it will not oppose his bail.
"I have said earlier too. I am an Indian. I have full faith in the Constitution as well as the judiciary of the country," Kumar told metropolitan magistrate Lovleen when he was produced for remand proceedings.
"The media trial against me is painful. If there is evidence against me that I am a traitor, then you please send me to jail. But if there no evidence against me, there should be no media trial," he said in a statement at the start of the proceedings.
Kumar, who has been booked under sedition charge in connection with an event in JNU where anti-national slogans were allegedly raised last week, has been arrested by Delhi Police. He has been remanded to judicial custody till March 2.
Bassi said if Kumar applies for bail, then police will not object to it.
"I personally feel, a young person... perhaps be given bail," he told reporters.
Under fire over violence in the Patiala House court complex, Bassi denied that Kumar was "beaten up" and defended the handling of the situation, saying use of "heavy force" against lawyers would have been counter-productive and inappropriate.
"I do not think he was beaten up. There was lot of jostling. We expected jostling and considering that he was escorted by a requisite number of police officers. He was taken care of by our officers.
"I do not think you can call the situation (in the court complex) today went out of hand," he told reporters after the Delhi Police's handling of the situation at the Patiala House court complex came under intense scrutiny from the Supreme Court in the wake of attack on Kumar and journalists by a group of lawyers.
He said the officers covered him physically and was protected from being assaulted. Scuffled took place on two occasions.
Replying to questions, he said use of force would have been counter-productive.
"Lawyers are officers of the court. When we are dealing with officers... use of heavy force would have been inappropriate in this case."
Bassi cited earlier instances of violence involving lawyers in Madras high court, Allahabad high court and elsewhere to buttress his point that lawyers are to be handled carefully.
"We have managed the situation. There was no breach of peace. We have followed norms of prudent policing," Bassi said.
Referring to Monday's violence in which a group of lawyers had attacked journalists, JNU students and teachers, Bassi said three lawyers including V K Chouhan and BJP MLA O P Sharma have been summoned for questioning.
He expressed hope that they will appear before the investigating officer and give their version of the events.