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Question marks over the Tis Hazari violence between lawyers and Delhi Police

Some things in the narrative do not add up. Are there other forces at play in the drama between lawyers and Delhi Police?

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Updated: Nov 07, 2019, 15:36 PM IST

I am in this unenviable position in my present state. I have been an civil servant who held the position of the Under Secretary (Internal Security) in the Ministry of Home Affairs, which is essential in dealing with inter alia law & order in the country, have later also held the position of Deputy Land and Development Officer, and now after my voluntary retirement, enrolled myself as an advocate in the Delhi Bar Council. Incidentally, it is these three institutions which are embroiled in this entire saga.

Firstly, over a period of time, that the Tis Hazari Courts have become cluttered with acute lack of space is well known. A large space which opens out to the lock-up room has been informally used by Delhi Police to offload and collect the prisoners who are brought to the court on the day of their respective hearings. Hence, to say that the land parcel belonged to Delhi Police may not be true unless the Delhi Police is able to produce any land allotment from the PWD of Delhi.

Further, Delhi Police does have this record of illegally claiming land and erecting unauthorised structures on land which they are offered to use to carry out their duty, with impunity. Anyone can corroborate this with an illegal police post which stands erected at a prominent crossing in Dwarka, or at any of the major markets in Delhi.

The structures come up first in porta cabin and later converted to permanent structures. Even in the sacrosanct Rajpath / Rafi Marg crossing, on sidelines of Rail Bhawan, a police post has come up. Hence, this type squatting and usurping land by Delhi Police is a pattern that is very noticeable.

I have had to reconcile man such instances in my responsibility as Land & Development Officer at the Home Ministry. Further, if any one scourges through newspaper archives from about two decades ago, they may also chance upon reports of police personnel having parted with their land to a private individual. Hence, in this manner the entire premise of Delhi Police would be stronger if they can produce an allotment letter from any authority assigning them this land for parking their prison vehicle.

Further, as a member of the profession, lawyers do have this challenging situation of shuttling between one court to another in a day's work. Given the distances between the High Court, various District Courts from Dwarka, Rohini, Patiala House, Karkardooma and Tis Hazari, and also the traffic in Delhi, it is the lawyers commuting from one court to another who are always under pressure.

Mind you, they are the areas of densest traffic during the working hours, hence wading through the traffic is challenging. I understand that the lawyer who is a the centre of this episode was commuting from Karkardooma Court to Tis Hazari to meet this deadline of a 2 pm hearing and alighted from his car and before giving instructions the constable picked up an altercation with the lawyer.

Challenged by the fact that the police personnel picked him up and that too on the court premises and roughed him up before pushing him inside the adjacent lock up precipitated. As per the version of my close colleagues who were present at the place, other lawyers sought to get him released. This began the strife which set off a lot of unpleasant events.

Instead of diffusing the situation, the Additional DCP ordered warning firing which misfired and resulted hitting the lawyer and another one of the fraternity. This set off a further precipitative reactions and aggravated responses, with miscreants also entering the fray. The judicial inquiry will surely bring out the facts. But there were several judges who discontinued their hearings upon learning upon the commotion and appealed the police to stop lathi charging the lawyers. Justice Dharmesh Sharma had made fervent appeals. These are all in full knowledge of judges who were present and tried to diffuse the situation.

It became a sort of eye witness account of judicial officer who tried to diffuse the situation and whose requests were disobeyed which resulted in the High Court order. So, to say that the Honourable High Court order was partisan is not correct. If senior police personnel had heeded to the appeal of the judges and thereafter put their side of story before the High Court, surely the High Court would have factored the same.

However, still the Honourable High Court was still soft in its order to the extent that the firing did happen validated by injury to two lawyers, and so did jail break on which the police should have put forth before the High Court. I also do not know, whether the Delhi Police did place before preliminary inquiry conducted by Justice Pinki which was conducted on 3.11.2019. 

Hence it can be clearly concluded that what happened on 2.11.2019 was unfortunate and could have been handled better. The personnel who began the fracas with the lawyer for alleged parking violation should have approached his senior to resolve the issue instead of getting into the altercation. Further, the Additional DCP who allegedly ordered the firing should be held accountable.

Further, in Tis Hazari, menace of fake lawyers is existent and frequently raids are undertaking but some they manage to surface back. The policemen only help them come back and also re-establish by referring bail cases with a share in the fees. These fake lawyers by virtue of their experience are able to arraign get bail for their clients which is opposed loosely by the same police personnel. This unholy alliance which is in existence which can be verified. 

But more importantly, the matter should have rested at that. But it did not happen. Reports pointed to social media posts with video clips of a lawyer beating up a police personnel on Monday. The assaulter was in black pants and white shirt. But take a close scrutiny of the assaulter. He is wearing his pants at below waist level as if he is walking into a mall or going to the Disco. Let me assure you no lawyer ever wears his attire in this way even outside the court. Hence, this needs to be verified whether he is a lawyer at all. From the style of his wearing his attire he looks very un-lawyerlike.

Further, and I may be wrong, the police personnel also didn't seem to be in pain or discomfort that anyone being assaulted would reflect. He looked very composed. After the helmet was thrown at him, no one was seeking picking the helmet. Hence, this piece of evidence should surely be investigated as to whether the assaulter was a lawyer at all and also was it stage managed to show Delhi police as victim.

This needs to be seen in the context today the policemen are seen protesting. We are well aware that Article 33 of the Constitution of India proscribes expressly the right to form association, right to strike, etc, to police personnel and others engaged in law and order functions.

Further, in practise, the chain of command is such that no policeman or security personnel dare disobey his seniors, and it is established that this tendency not to disobey also suppresses their own desires/ requirements which in a study has concluded that is the reason for fratricide in security personnel posted in stressful assignments. The dictum in police forces is like the line from AL Tennyson's poem 'Charge of the Light Brigade', which goes, "Not to reason why, Not to question why, but to do and die." Also, it is a protocol in the police and security forces that family should also attend police functions once the orders go out. Has any informal order gone out to the personnel and their families to carry out this drama?

Hence, to see visuals of repeated appeals by the Commissioner of Police, Special Commissioner of Police, two Joint Commissioners of Police, being rejected, spurned and disobeyed is like putting the cart before the horse and asking it to be driven. Unless it is again a stage managed show with full collusion of the highest echelons of Delhi Police. Aggrieved by the High Court they are part of the show and managed to get some public sympathy as well and putting pressure on the High Court to review its order.

Having said that, in the aftermath of the September 2008 attack in various places in Delhi, several posts were sanctioned. But many of the posts were not filled under the pretext of no suitable candidate found eligible. But later on, it is a matter of record that senior officers of Delhi Police upon completion of qualifying service to their next high grade used these unfilled posts as balancing posts to get upgradation of their respective position. This is as per Government of India, if a post is to be created then you have to show matching savings by virtue of surrendering of other posts in the organisation. In these proposals to get their upgraded status, the respective officers post will be shown as surrendered along with a post of constable which they had previously recorded as none found suitable. I hope this self-aggrandisement, by using the lower police personnel is not repeated by using this as an opportunity. 

But more alarmingly, my fears are that while the incident of 2.11.2019 might have happened impromptu, have any political entities entered into this to embarrass the overseeing Government of Delhi Police? A piquant position in  this is that Delhi Police may be under the oversight of Ministry of Home Affairs, but their advocate is appointed by Delhi government, because had the version of the Delhi Police been put before them in right earnest, we might have received a different order.

(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed above are the personal views of the author and do not reflect the views of ZMCL.)