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Lawyers’ protest goes up in flames

Lawyers block the Puri-Bhubaneswar National Highway and set ablaze a police jeep at Kalpana Square in Bhubaneswar on Monday. Picture by Ashwinee Pati

Bhubaneswar, July 21: Three persons, including a cop, suffered injuries and a police van was allegedly set on fire as lawyers of the Bhubaneswar Bar Association today staged a demonstration against last week’s attack on their colleague.

Hundreds of lawyers were staging a blockade on the National Highway-203 Bhubaneswar-Puri road near Kalpana Square when the police rushed to the spot to disperse the agitators.

The lawyers allegedly pelted the police jeep with stones, forcing its occupants to jump out and run for cover. Later, the agitators set the vehicle on fire. Two passers-by and a policeman also suffered minor injuries in the violence.

The blockade was to protest the attack on lawyer Nihar Ranjan Sethy on Wednesday night. While the police claimed that they found Sethy with injuries near Ravi Talkies Square and rushed him to Capital Hospital, the lawyer alleged that some policemen had attacked him.

“ I was returning home when some policemen stopped me near Ravi Talkies Square. When I told that I was a lawyer they began arguing with me. Then they snatched my motorcycle, bundled me into the police van and assaulted me,” alleged Sethy, who suffered severe injuries on his scrotum and is admitted at a private hospital in the city.

On July 18, lawyers staged a demonstration in front of the judicial complex housing local courts protesting the assault on Sethy. They demanded immediate arrest of the policemen involved in the attack and had staged a roadblock for around two hours on the NH-203.

Traffic became chaotic with the protesters not letting vehicles pass through Kalpana Square. As a result, vehicles, especially buses had to be diverted through other routes creating problems for commuters.

“This is not expected from lawyers, who are supposed to guard the law. If they had a problem they could have gone to the office of the police commissioner. But instead, they had chosen to block an arterial road for hours throwing the traffic out of gear, causing all sorts of problems for people like us,” said Niranjan Parida, a passenger, who had to wait for around one hour to catch a bus to Puri.

Later, senior police officials, including police commissioner R.P. Sharma, reached the spot and held discussions with the agitating lawyers inside the office of the Bhubaneswar Bar Association.

The agitation came to an end after the police assured the lawyers that people involved in the attack on their colleague would be arrested within next 48 hours.

“A team of police officers will conduct an inquiry into the assault on the lawyer and the accused will be arrested within next 48 hours,” said the police commissioner.

Bhubaneswar Bar Association president Tusharkanti Mohapatra, however, denied involvement of lawyers in setting the police jeep on fire and said the members of the public had torched the vehicle.

“We have been demanding arrest of the accused, but the police so far have not initiated any action against the police personnel involved in the attack. We will resort to cease work till the culprits are arrested,” said Mohapatra.


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