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Lawyers-police clash: Delhi High Court issues notice to Bar Council of India

The Centre approached the high court urging that its order for no coercive action against advocates should not be applicable on the subsequent incidents
Police personnel gather outside the police headquarters in ITO to protest against the assault on policemen following clashes with lawyers at Tis Hazari court, in New Delhi, Tuesday, November 5, 2019.
Police personnel gather outside the police headquarters in ITO to protest against the assault on policemen following clashes with lawyers at Tis Hazari court, in New Delhi, Tuesday, November 5, 2019.

PTI   |   New Delhi   |   Published 05.11.19, 12:13 PM

The Centre rushed to the Delhi High Court on Tuesday urging it that its order for no coercive action against advocates, passed on Sunday following the lawyers-police clash at Tis Hazari Courts Complex, should not be applicable on the subsequent incidents.

A bench of Chief Justice D. N. Patel and Justice C. Hari Shankar issued notice and sought response of the Bar Council of India, the apex body of lawyers, and several other bar associations of the national capital on the Centre's plea.

The central government, represented by additional solictor-general Maninder Acharya, has sought a clarification from the court that 'the order dated November 3, 2019, is no impediment in taking any action in accordance with law to maintain law and order'.

The high court had directed that no coercive action would be taken against any lawyer on the basis of FIRs lodged with regard to the November 2 incident.

The Centre's plea assumes significance as after the court order, an on-duty policeman and a civilian were allegedly thrashed by advocates outside Saket Court on Monday. Two separate FIRs were lodged by the police in this regard on Tuesday.

During the brief hearing on the application, the advocates representing various lawyers' bodies urged the high court to ban the media from showing videos of the recent incidents saying they could worsen the situation.

The bench declined to pass any interim order and said the matter would be heard in detail on Wednesday.

It, however, told senior advocates Mohit Mathur and Rakesh Khanna -- representing various bar associations -- that 'you all are good, reputable lawyers and leaders' and asked them to see that the entire issue is resolved 'properly'.

The lawyers, including Bar Council of India (BCI) chairman Manan Kumar Mishra, told the court that it was in the process of resolving the entire issue and everything would have been normalised in a day or two, but senior police officers were making 'provocative and threatening' statements on TV and Twitter.

The bar associations have opposed the application, saying that police was seeking the relief to harass the lawyers.

They also contended that videos were being circulated on social media to malign the image of the lawyers.

The associations told the court that the entire legal fraternity cannot be held responsible for some stray incidents by persons who may or may not be lawyers.

The hearing took place hours after BCI came out with a statement asking various bar bodies to identify lawyers 'indulging in hooliganism' and requested advocates to end their protests, which are 'bringing bad name to the institution'.

They contended that police being a disciplined force was not expected to be issuing threats and making provocative statements.

It said that the high court's order was 'being construed to be a direction to mean that no coercive action in such incidents can be taken at all even in relation to the events and incidents subsequent to November 2'.

'Therefore, clarification is required from this court as various unfortunate incidents have happened during the last two days as observed by the respondent (Centre) and widely reported by the media, which requires the law to take its own course without any fetters.

'It is prayed that this court may clarify that order dated November 3 pertains only to the two FIRs registered at Subzi Mandi police station on November 2,' the application, filed through central government standing counsel Anil Soni, said.

The tension between police personnel and lawyers had been building up since Saturday, when a clash over a parking dispute injured at least 20 security personnel and several advocates.

In the November 3 order, the high court had also ordered a judicial inquiry by one of its retired judges into the clash and transfer of two senior police officials during pendency of the investigation.

The court sat on a holiday after taking suo motu cognisance of media reports of the Saturday afternoon incident in which three advocates had suffered gun shot injuries.

The court had said that Justice S. P. Garg would head the judicial probe and he will be assisted by directors of CBI, Vigilance and Intelligence Bureau or any other senior officers appointed by them and the inquiry shall be completed within six weeks and a report be submitted in the court.

The bench had directed the Delhi Police commissioner to transfer special commissioner Sanjay Singh, who had allegedly ordered lathi charge on lawyers inside the court complex, and additional DCP Harinder Singh, who had allegedly ordered firing at the lawyers, during pendency of the investigation.

It had also directed the police commissioner to take immediate action with regard to suspension of ASI Kanta Prasad, who allegedly dragged an advocate inside the lock up and beat him up, and ASI Pawan, who allegedly fired at the lawyers.

The directions were issued after hearing the heads of various lawyers bodies, including Bar Council of India, Bar Council of Delhi, Supreme Court Bar Association, Delhi High Court Bar Association, coordination committee of Delhi district courts, which demanded that there should be judicial probe into the incident.

They had also urged the court that the senior officials of Delhi police who ordered lathi charge and firing be arrested and suspended along with those who manhandled the advocates.

They had asked for a judicial probe saying they have no faith in Delhi police whose investigation would be 'tainted and biased'.

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