Panel: Striking lawyers behaved like hooligans
Police used excess force than required
Dhananjay Mahapatra | TNN
New Delhi: Striking Madras High Court lawyers behaved like “hooligans and miscreants” and were squarely responsible for triggering the bloody February 19 clashes between advocates and police, the Supreme Court-appointed inquiry panel headed by retired SC judge B N Srikrishna has said.
An otherwise vociferous group of lawyers from Tamil Nadu present inside the chief justice’s court listened in stunned silence as every line of the 22-page caustic report was read out by senior advocate R Vaigai.
Justice Srikrishna held Madras HC and its acting chief justice equally responsible for the lawyers’ rowdy behaviour.
“The soft-pedalling policy of the HC judges has led to the present piquant situation,” the report said, adding the soft policy of the acting chief justice only emboldened the lawyers to become law breakers.
Commenting on the advocates who brazenly threw stones against police to incite them, Justice Srikrishna said, “Regretfully, far from being upholders of the rule of law, the lawyers seem to have behaved as hooligans and miscreants.”
Clearly putting the blame on the lawyers as instigators, the report said, “The incidents that transpired over a 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.”
It narrated how lawyers had been exceeding norms by holding public meetings within the HC and that too to celebrate the birthday of LTTE leader V Prabhakaran, who has been declared an absconding accused in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case.
“Undoubtedly, political cross-currents from the Sri Lankan Tamil issues and castebased issues contributed to and aggravated the situation.
It should have been made clear to the lawyers from the beginning, in no uncertain terms, that whatever their political ideologies, the court premises could not be utilised for airing them,” Justice Srikrishna said.
If lawyers were the instigators, the police did not behave in a responsible manner and used force much in excess of what was required to disperse the lawyers, the report said. While giving a clean chit to the Chennai police commissioner and other senior cops who had been transferred on SC orders to facilitate a fair probe, the report said,
There is no material, at this time, to suggest that any of the officers had directed or ordered the policemen to behave in the atrocious manner in which they behaved.”
Though the report justified police action, it said that “police went much beyond what was permissible use of force”. “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 then in the chambers of lawyers inside and outside the court complex,” it added.
SC sends report to HC, TN govt
With TN lawyers refusing suggestions from the SC to end their strike, the top court decided to send the Justice Srikrishna report to Madras HC and the TN government for further action.
When the lawyers, present in large numbers in the court room, repeatedly asked for action against police officials first, a bench asked them for a response for that part of the report which blamed the advocates.
The bench also rejected their demand for a judicial probe into the February 19 violence. TNN