We need a semblance of order to believe the police is an enforcer. And judiciary is meant to complement that effort
For the common citizen, security comes from the rule of law and an assurance of justice when it is violated. That trust in law enforcers or the police and justice crusaders or lawyers was shattered completely in the Capital no less when the two sides fought like cats and dogs over a parking dispute that snowballed into an egoistic turf war. The lawyers claimed the court premises were their space and had the right to park a car anywhere, the police insisted it was unlawful. What’s worse, both sides escalated a scuffle with galloping force instead of containing it. They urged their colleagues to an all-out war on the streets of Delhi, paralysing the city completely and making a mockery of the justice system, destroying it instead of restoring it, degrading the code of public service and morality that they are sworn to but apparently have no respect for. If an advocate slapped a constable at Tis Hazari, the frayed tempers spilt over with the cops retaliating and lawyers, in turn, thrashing them in Saket and Karkardooma district courts. The entire Delhi police rose in revolt in an unprecedented manner demanding action against the errant lawyers as the latter slapped cases on them and even ensured their suspension. This may seem like a bizarre outburst of fury but one that had been gathering volcanic force for quite some time, both in a never-ending tussle of heft within the criminal justice framework. First, lawyers, by virtue of their expertise in interpreting the law, have also developed an arrogance vis-a-vis constables and junior cops. Assaulting and intimidating them or even lesser privileged litigants have been reported with far too much frequency to take note of, the violations never being reported or redressed simply because victims don’t want a court battle that the lawyers could trap them with. In the Tis Hazari case, the lawyers were able to get an urgent hearing in the Delhi High Court on Sunday that took suo moto cognisance of reports about the clashes. It also directed Delhi Police not to register any FIR against lawyers or take coercive action against them. It further ordered the Government to provide the best possible treatment to lawyers injured in the clash. This seemed one-sided and riled up the entire force. Many among them have rightly argued that if the court wanted to intervene, then it should have served a notice to the department and heard its views before passing any order. Ordinary constables certainly cannot afford to fight complex charges, fearing the fraternal spirit in courts could influence the magistrate, victimise them and ruin their careers. Lawyers, too, have gotten away with the comfort of knowing that they can use the law to their advantage and get away by threatening others. What else can explain lawyers assaulting even journalists during the hearing of JNU student leader Kanhaiya Kumar’s sedition case at Patiala House courts in 2016? Such incidents of high-handedness have been sporadic across the country, arming the lawyers with a certain sense of invincibility. It is only now that their seniors and bar associations gave strongly come out against lumpenisation under the cover of law.
As for the Delhi police, this was just the last straw on the camel’s back as they have been at the receiving end of authority for far too long and under far greater pressure than anywhere else to deliver, no matter the brutal long hours, the not so suitable conditions, the expectations of efficacy and the perennial criticism. For long, there has been a demand for police reforms and calls for their protection in the line of duty but to no avail. And though their code prohibits them from mass revolt, their collective demonstration showed up the wide gulf between their top brass and the lowest rung. So if they recalled the muscularity of former top cop Kiran Bedi, who had silenced lawyers during a similar row in 1988, it is because they feel a lack of urgency from seniors to address their grievances. So now they are clearly looking for more than flat reassurances, they want swift action. And their pride. For politicians, this is no time for using this shame as cannon fodder and for pointing fingers at each other. For the sake of justice, the offenders, no matter which side of the divide they belong to, in these brawls must be identified and acted against. And for Delhi, we need a semblance of order to trust that the police is indeed with us, for us always. That the judiciary is meant to complement that greater effort. Let us not be enemies of the State. For unjust law, as Gandhi said, is a species of violence itself.