Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Senior lawyers respond in outrage to the incident and biased news coverage



The Chief Justice of India

Supreme Court,

New Delhi.

A representation by Senior Advocates of the Madras High Court.


The ugly incidents that took place on the afternoon of the 19th day of February, 2009 within the precincts of the Chartered High Court of Madras have left scores bleeding and thousands embittered. There seems to be an attempt to project advocates as the chief cause and perpetrators of the violence that was unleashed inside the premises. In this context, it is felt that a few important issues have been overlooked in the dust and din that has been raised:

1. A large posse of regular policemen, Swift Action Group, Riot Control Police had been gathered around the High Court premises since morning – did the police suspect anything, was anything being planned?

2. The police are on record saying that they were prepared – see News Report by A.Selvaraj in the Times of India, Chennai Edition, 21-Fen-09, at page 2.

3. It is alleged that a group of advocates created a commotion/uproar/disturbance over the police’s laxity in filing an FIR against Shri Subramaniam Swamy and that the police ‘action’ which ensued was the result of trying to control this group of advocates.

4. If the police had such a large force piled up, could not this group of advocates have been contained without much difficulty – or are the police so inefficient that it is incapable of even this clinical operation?

5. Was it necessary to run amok inside the High Court to control a group of advocates, as alleged?

6. How then did the police let themselves inside the High Court premises on the afternoon of February 19th, after the boycott had ended? This action is indeed surprising viewed in the context of the extreme ‘restraint’ the police had shown itself to be capable of, a couple of months ago at the Madras Law College.

7. Worse, the police have charged inside various High Court sections (Registry) – For one, the police have tried force their way into, among others, the High-Court-Judges’-Personal Assistants (P.A) – Section – this Section apparently has had a new door put up at the entrance. Terrified court staff have locked the door from inside and have had their backs to the door trying to resist the police men banging at the door from gaining entry – eye-witnesses recount how the door would open into the section about a feet, and how the staff from inside would push it back in place, only for the door to be banged at again by the police. The door would again have to be pushed back in place – what did the P.A.’s do to merit this?

8. The High Court library was not spared either – library staff was attacked.

9. Why was it that the police though it fit to barge into sections lathi charging and terrorizing the poor court staff? Even assuming the police have a right to charge at all advocates for the commotion created by a few, surely the Court staff are distinguishable from the advocates by their dress?

10. Worried advocates have had to petition the Registrar General to bring the situation into control.

11. Others, distressed advocates, had also gone to the Acting Chief Justice’s chambers requesting that the police be directed to leave the High Court premises – the ACJ had been in conference with a few judges. Top brass of the police were contacted, none could be reached!

12. The Acting Chief Justice and a few other judges had then set out to control the scene and to take stock of the situation so as to ensure no further harm to men and property. The Judges were then taken to one of the sections viz. Current Section to avoid any untoward incident. However this precaution failed as one of the Hon’ble Judges was injured.

13. A charge is made that the B4 Police Station inside the High Court premises was set ablaze by the advocates. Footage shown on T.V. shows the police station, without any damage to it, surrounded by a couple of hundred policemen including the Swift Action Group/Riot Control Police – how then did advocates get access to the police station. Who burned the Police Station down?

14. Police have charged indiscriminately at all advocates – photos abound of police beating up innocent advocates huddled into a corner, of thrashing people who were pleading with hands folded…

15. There is ample footage of advocates’ cars and motor bikes being smashed by the policemen. Why? If there was such an emergent need for the police to charge to contain the ‘attacking advocates’ why was it deemed fit to stop mid way, turn their fury at the vehicles and proceed?

16. And, what of police men throwing stones on people at Court corridors?

17. The police started beating up women advocates and using abusive language without any provocation. This treatment was also meted out to innocent litigants who were unfortunate enough to be in the campus on the ill-fated day. Surely a case of “protectors” turning “aggressors”.

18. If a large group of advocates gathered and retaliated by throwing stones, can they be accused of throwing stones without grave and sudden provocation?

19. If a group of advocates were the first to resort to throwing stones, why were tear gas shells/water cannons not used to contain them? In any case, what was the need to attack, get inside the offices of the Registry and beat up Court staff?

20. The police have also gone inside the chambers of the Acting Chief Justice and terrorized the Acting Chief Justice’s staff.

21. Mr.Justice A.C.Arumuga Perumal Adityan was wounded in the police ‘action’ with a lathi and had to be protected by a group of advocates who got badly injured and had to be rushed to the hospital along with the Hon’ble Judge.

22. At least two exits from the High Court have been locked preventing advocates, court staff and others from going outside – is a reference to Jalianwala Bagh inappropriate?

23. Not satisfied with all the above, the police have chased advocates even outside the High Court premises, in and around NSC Bose Road.

A very sad day for the Indian judiciary; a judiciary required to be independent of executive interference. While there may be two opinions on whether the preceding boycott was justified or not, the brutal attack on the institution had nothing to do with this. It is a fact that the Madras High Court was ransacked and vandalized by the police who could not be controlled by even the Chennai City Police Commissioner.

In the light of all the above, it is submitted that advocates have a genuine cause for anguish over this terror that has been let loose by the police. The extent of damage caused to the person and property of the officers of the Court stand testimony to the fact that the police ‘action’ was much more than disproportionate to the disturbances alleged to have been caused by a group of advocates.

Thirty five senior Advocates, including R.Krishnamurthy, Habibullah Badsha, both former Advocate Generals of the High Court, Madras, Mr.T.R.Rajagopolan, former Additional Advocate General, Mr.N.Natarajan and Mr.R.Gandhi, Senior Advocates met on 20.02.2009 and discussed the serious situation in the High Court and passed the following resolutions:

“ We the senior members of the Madras Bar place on record our strongest disapproval of the atrocities committed by the Police, Swift Action Group and Commandos inside the Madras High Court premises on the 19th February 2009, brutally and indiscriminately attacking innocent lawyers, Court staff and general public and damaging public property as well as vehicles parked inside the campus.

We condemn the atrocious act of the Police in even attacking the constitutional authorities – the Hon’ble Judges of the Madras High Court, as well as the Subordinate Judiciary, this interfering with the administration of judicial system.

We demand the prompt and severe action to be taken against the Police officers, who issued directions to the Police to take aggressive action against the lawyers and the Police who unleashed a reign of terror within the High Court campus.

Be all these as they may, two urgent issues need to be addressed – first, finding out what was the agenda behind this indiscriminate action and secondly, and more importantly, saving the all important institution of the High Court from the clutches of the police.


















  1. I have gone through all along your bit notice undated and find nothing wrong on the part of the lawyers. But at the same time I can not be able to understand as to why the police has operated with such a stringent lathi charge on the lawyers. Further, I could not able to come to a conclussion that who was erring on that day merely having seen the TV channels and read the News Papers .
    As a public I want to say one thing. Our former Chief Minister Arignanr Anna told that the Law is a dark room and wherein the lawyers argument is the light. If it is true and the lawyers have faith on the above quote, then why you will not accept and obey the order of the Supreme Court and co-ordinate with the Enquiery Commission headed by the former Supreme Court Judge Justice Srikrishna? As a public I request all lawyers to drop the agitations and resume normalcy. Because people are sadly awaiting justice in front of the Court in respect of their own miseries.

  2. Though Hon'ble Justice Krishna Iyer had dealtwith the issue rightly, I want to comment upon the role of Senior Advocates of Madras High Court. Because, the members of Madras Bar Association is privileged who can afford to think of otherthings along with their routine business. I want to blame the Senior Advocates first for all this. There can't be any justification for boycotting courts indefinitely and that to when the majority is infavour of resuming work. I have attended the meeting at MHAA where Sri Sriram Panchu was also present. Very few advocates opposed resuming work in an undemocratic and shameful manner and Sri Sriram Panchu has also witnessed that. If the youngsters in the profession are doing mistakes, it is the responsibility of the Senior Advocates to correct that. No Senior Advocate has shown much interest even to advice MHAA and nobody has attended the meeting barring very very few like Sri Sriram Panchu. I don't see any wrong in the comment that few advocates who has no work creating all this troubles. I don't understand as to what these Senior Advocates has done to the Profession except being serious when an young advocate argues against them in court. They must first change their attitude and before arguing writ petitions, they must discharge their fundamental duties. Though the associations can do many things for the development of profession, they do nothing except politics. It is the time for the Senior Advocates to spend some time towards discharging their minimum responsibility towards legal fraternity. I am very very impressed at Sri Vasudevan's comment on Senior Advocates recently.
    When it comes to police atrocities on Feb 19 and the action to be taken, nobody can explain the events better than Sri Krishna Iyer. We have seen many great judges in the past, but, today, even after so much freedom and independence in appointments, the judiciary is not functioning as required. Its unfortunate. I am beyond doubt that, if Senior Advocates spend some time, then, the situation will be changed. No one in the profession can oppose senior advocates as every advocate is attached to a Senior in one way or other.
    Our constitutional framers has given so much importance to each word and sentence while drafting the constitution, but, today it is unfortunate to see the leaders who doesn't even know the importance of "constitution" and "rule of law". People may comment and enjoy at the press reports, but, they should realise that what happend on Feb.19th is an attack on society and the citizens.
    I hope that the responsible and privileged people will find some time to correct this system.
    I am very happy to see the active role played by Sri R.Gandhi, Sri Sriram Panchu, Respected Vaigai, Sri T.Mohan and other advocates in restoring the lost dignity.
    ------Rao, Advocate.

  3. What happened on 19th Feb at the High Court premises( the so-called custodians of law chasing those who plead for it to beat them up) looked like a scene from a Kodambakkam cheap thriller movie!No wonder the octogenerian CM would have lost the little appetite he might have had viewing this from his hospital bed in his own 'Kalaignar' channel that he decided to go on fast!So much of volence and bloodshed!Bharati said:' if the demons were to rule the Holy Scriptures would prescibe canibalism as a sacred writ!'
    Indira Parthasarathy (Writer)

  4. I am, A. Murugesan, Pozhichalur, Chennai -74 again placing my appeal before the lawyers to drop the agitations and resume normalcy. The State Government have not turned up so far to settle the lawyers' demand and the Apex Court itself too, consequent on the clash between Tamil Nadu Police and the lawyers of High Court on 19.02.2009. Then what will be the usefulness of agitating and from whome the lawyers are expecting the justice?. The only way of getting solution to identifiy the real culprits is only to co-operate with the Judicial Commission headed by Justie SriKrishna. As a public I place this appeal. I hope that the lawyers would oblige since the voice of public is ultimate.
    --my e mail ID

  5. To all those who say that lawyers must resume work, we say come to the High Court and see for yourself if that is possible. There is no water in our toilets in the chamber block, the chambers have remain uncleaned from the 19th of February. There are glass shards everywhere around. Police continue to say that we hurl petrol bombs at them and a credulous media laps it up. It hardly helps us to boycott courts. We deprive ourselves of arguing in Court, a love of which has drawn us to the profession, and if lawyers (for the most part at least) do not make any money to support their offices and their families as long as work is not resumed. But the question is larger, what of the assault on the Constitution and what of the accountability of the State in this assault on an institution