Policemen are scared of lawyers because the latter have a weapon called istagaasha or criminal complaint, which the police have no control over
Recently, some policemen in the Capital were said to have been physically assaulted by lawyers in Tis Hazari, Karkardooma and Saket District Courts, which instigated them to hold a demonstration of several hours before the headquarters of the Delhi Police Commissioner near the ITO building demanding protection from such assaults. Several were seen carrying posters reading “Hum police hain, ghulam nahin (We are policemen, not slaves).” Their agitation has been supported by the media as well as police organisations all over the country. And, in what seems to be a feud that is spreading, there were fisticuffs between policemen and lawyers in an Alwar court too.
Now it seems strange that policemen, who do not seem to be scared of any other section of society (except, perhaps, politicians and the armed forces) are scared of lawyers. Lawyers don’t carry batons and guns, as many policemen do, then why are the latter scared of them ? Even when there is a police lathi-charge on lawyers, it is usually consequential to a prior assault by lawyers on policemen, either with fists or stones.
Policemen are not cowards, so if they are assaulted they are likely to retaliate, but usually they are not the ones who stir up an incident. The reason why policemen are scared of lawyers is that the latter have a weapon called istagaasha or criminal complaint, of which policemen are dreadfully afraid. A criminal case in India can be started in one of two ways, that is by filing an FIR (first information report) in a police station under Section 154 CrPC (Code of Criminal Procedure) or by filing an istagaasha before the Judicial Magistrate, under Section 200 CrPC.
Now policemen are not scared of an FIR because that is submitted to others of their own fraternity, and members of one’s own fraternity tend to stand by each other and gang up against the common enemy, in this case the lawyers. So the matter is “manageable.” But a criminal complaint before a judicial magistrate is an altogether different cup of tea. It is presented before a judge and lawyers and judges belong to the same legal fraternity. A magistrate’s sympathy is, therefore, likely to be more with the lawyers who appear daily before him in court rather than with the policemen.
On receiving a complaint by lawyers of a police atrocity, whether true or concocted, the judicial magistrate will issue summons to the policemen accused under Section 204 CrPC and begin a criminal trial, which may end up by the accused policemen being sent to jail and/or their career damaged or ruined. So the moment a summons is issued against him by a judicial magistrate, a policeman is like a fish out of water, flopping about helplessly. That is the real reason why policemen are scared of lawyers.
Many lawyers have imaginative minds, which also scares Government servants. Let me give an example of one such diabolical mind at work. When I was a lawyer in Allahabad High Court (1971-91), there was a leading senior lawyer of Allahabad District Court (let us call him AB), who, though having a huge practice, never filed income tax returns and, of course, never paid any income tax.
Once, a young exuberant and upright Income Tax Officer was posted in Allahabad, who issued a notice to AB to appear before him. When AB appeared, the tax official said, “Mr AB, everyone knows you are a top lawyer in Allahabad District Court with a roaring practice. Yet you never file income tax returns and never pay any income tax”, and having said so, made a best assessment and levied a huge demand on AB as tax and penalty. AB kept pleading that he was a poor lawyer with no practice and that he would be ruined by this huge demand as he had no assets, and so on, but to no avail.
A few days thereafter, the tax official received a letter from a lawyer (not AB) stating that his client, a young woman, had been impregnated by the tax official under a false promise of marriage which he had not kept, and now his client has delivered his child, for which he must pay a huge amount of compensation. Otherwise legal proceedings for rape and so on would be commenced against him.
The tax official was bewildered and shocked as he had never till then even had an affair with any woman, far less impregnating anyone. He went from lawyer to lawyer seeking advice, and ultimately someone told him to go to AB. He did and fell at AB’s feet, apologising profusely. Consequently, a compromise was reached. The tax official recalled his order imposing tax and penalty on AB, and the legal notice too was withdrawn.
No wonder Government servants in India and cops, too, give lawyers a wide berth!
(The writer is a former judge of the Supreme Court of India)