Tuesday, March 17, 2009

A Time of reckoning

I left the High Court early on Feb 19 and so was left out of the shocking events which unfolded there. In the morning, I chanced to comment to my friends outside the Acting Chief Justice’s Court that Subramaniam Swamy had brought an entire battalion to field off more eggs and we laughed, thinking that it was just political flourishing. We were all excited, the first day of real work after weeks. My work for the day over, I went home early and so was spared the horror. My husband, coming out of the court filing section, where he had gone to check out a case, appearing in the list the next day, suddenly saw stones flying and armed policemen chasing advocates. He did not know what was happening but quickly walked through a shortcut into the chambers and out of the campus. Meanwhile, a junior came running that the cops were chasing and beating advocates in the civil court. My husband, unwilling to leave the scene, went to a friend’s office close by where he was told a High Court Judge had been injured and that cops were breaking cars and court property and were beating advocates to a pulp within the High Court itself! This was something we had never seen in all the twenty-two years of my practice. I remembered the battalion outside the Chief’s court and knew the police had planned it all, probably bringing the stones and set fire tio the police station themselves. News kept trickling in all evening, cops even entered lawyers offices in the streets near NSC Bose Road and tried to beat advocates! My husband was in contact with some public spirited lawyers who had enterd the court, escaped being hit and were closeted in the ACJ’s chamber, wanting the HC to take action against the unprecedented and alarming police brutality.
The next day, wherever I went, I got shocked and worried reactions from members of the public- if lawyers and judges were not spared, where was the hope for ordinary citizens. Politicians , however, reacted differently- The Chief Minister asked the ACJ to cooperate and was willing to meet him in an ambulance! Not a word of apology for the mayhem unleashed by the police. The High Court, after all the representations by concerned lawyers, ordered a CBI enquiry and sent teams out to assess the damage. This exercise continued the next day and some advocates, including my husband, moved a contempt application against the police after the High Court clarified that they had not given the police permission to enter. The papers had a field day with conflicting reports. While TOI clearly put the onus on the police, Saturday’s reports tried to “balance” Friday’s report with a completely government-centric version. The Hindu went one better and covered only the police version- reporting the “alleged” damage by the police when TV footage clearly showed the police throwing stones and breaking cars. TOI on Sunday carried an exclusive by the CJI asking lawyers not to go on strike! He refused to comment on the police excesses, citing lack of information. Now, the High Court is dragging its heels, the Sri Krishna Report is biased and one thing is clear from the incident- all the authorities are as one in protecting the government.