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Cops and lawyers clash after crash

Lucknow, Sept. 3: A vehicular collision here this morning blew up into a violent clash and a stand-off between lawyers and police, adding fuel to the Opposition’s claim of worsening law and order in Uttar Pradesh.

Trouble started at 10.30 when the car of L. P. Mishra, former president of the Awadh Bar Association, and a large army van collided near Subhas Chowk in the heart of Lucknow, said witnesses

The resultant minor congestion prompted a police officer to intervene. Mishra’s attempts at an explanation spiralled into an argument with the officer, making him lose his cool and take out his service revolver, the witnesses said.

Other advocates — including Ashoke Nigam, president of the Awadh Bar Association — who were on their way to work joined in.

A group of policemen on duty in the area rushed in and tried to chase the lawyers away, baton in hand, witnesses said. On the run, some lawyers fell down and took baton-blows, while others tried to scale the iron fencing of an adjacent park.

At least 11 were hurt. Nigam suffered severe injuries to his arm and another advocate took a baton-blow to his eye.

After the injured lawyers reached the court premises, incensed colleagues pelted stones at the police and blocked all the city’s arterial roads.

“The advocates were treated like hardened criminals and subjected to the worst brutalities by the police,” alleged advocate Rajkumar Singh, part of a lawyers’ delegation that later called on the chief minister and the governor.

Facing flak over the “unseemly attack”, chief minister Mulayam Singh Yadav ordered a probe by a retired justice of the Lucknow bench of Allahabad High Court.

The Opposition BJP and the Bahujan Samaj Party, and the Congress, an outside supporter of the government, blasted the police action.

“The incident exposed only one thing: criminalisation of the police force. If the defenders of law are meted out this treatment, one can guess what is happening to ordinary people,” said Ranveer Sirajewala, Congress joint-in-charge of state affairs.

The advocates, scared of leaving the court premises, filed a petition before B.P. Sahay, the seniormost judge of the Lucknow bench, seeking protection. He summoned the principal secretary (home) Anil Kumar and director-general of police B.K.B. Nair.

In the presence of a special bench comprising all 17 judges of the court, Kumar assured full protection to the advocates, prompting the agitators to call off their protest and disperse from the court at 6 pm.

Nair was unable to enter the court because of the demonstration outside.

The city continued to be tense till late this evening.

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