“Never have a Bobby (Scotland Yard) for a friend or foe”, Lord Denning, then Master of the Rolls, famously said. But, curiously, in India, the lawyers and police have always been the best of friends or the worst of enemies. The assumption is that the police and lawyers, are in 'public service'. It is, but rarely do we see the police and the lawyer community uniting to maintain and enforce the Rule of Law. News reports, more often than not, are revelations on the conflicts between the rival communities. It makes sad reading and there is no institutional mechanism in place to tackle these ticklish issues of sensitive nature. And we had the spectacle of the ‘Delhi Police force in near mutinous behaviour to challenge the violence perpetrated by the lawyers’ fraternity in Tis Hazari Court Complex’- as a tweet put it.
On November 6, the Delhi high court clarified that its November 3 order not to take coercive steps against lawyers was only in relation to the two FIRs lodged on November 2, with regard to the clash between the police and lawyers at Tis Hazari courts complex. Chief Justice D.N. Patel and Justice C. Hari Shankar allowed the application moved by Delhi police, through the Central government standing counsel, seeking modifications in the court's observations regarding how a lawyer was allegedly dragged into the lockup of the district court, the firing by one of the policemen posted their leading to gunshot injuries to three advocates and the order of lathicharge given by a senior officer on November 2. The police had sought removal of the observations so that they are not read and interpreted as “conclusive findings” against them in any investigation.
The bench disposed of the application saying the observations were “prima facie” and “tentative” in nature and were “only to be read in the context of the order dated November 3, 2019”. “Otherwise, these facts are to be proved on the basis of the evidences on record,” it said. The court also expressed anguish over the “dissonance and friction” prevailing between the bar and the police -- which represent and constitute “the preserver and the protector of the rule of law” and suggested a meeting between “responsible representatives” of both sides to “sort out their differences amicably, on the basis of discussion and deliberations”. “They (police and lawyers) are but two faces of the coin of justice, and it is essential, for the rule of law to prevail, that they work in close proximity and harmony.... In
our view, therefore, it would be advisable, in this case, that a joint meeting, of responsible representatives of the advocates and the police establishment be convened, who should make a sincere effort to meet and sort out their differences amicably, on the basis of discussion and deliberations, with the objective of dissolution of their differences, which, in our view, have essentially arisen owing to a communication gap, during the last few days. We are hopeful that, if a sincere attempt is made in this direction, peace and harmony will ultimately prevail,” the bench said in its optimistic order.
But the goings on in the first court were themselves testimony to the antipathy between the ‘two sides of the same coin’. The court hall was overflowing. The senior advocates' urging on behalf of the two sides, found it hard to contain the tinderbox like environment. Lawyers were seen making ‘loud and sarcastic remarks taunting the police and the media as lining up on the same side’, which saw several journalists walk out in protest. It took a while for the cauldron to be cooled down for proceedings to take place.
Without taking sides in these hot climes, truth is that those in the know, in practice, are well aware and exposed to the 'love and bonhomie lawyers and police have for each other when it suits them both” as Justice V.R. Krishna Iyer said , as only he can. Justice K. Chandru (Retd.) ruthlessly exposed the precept and practice of the uniquely devised ‘Double Bail regime’ in place in Egmore Magistrate Court, functioning with the wink and nod of Police Administration, and benign indifference of the magistracy. As soon as a FIR is registered, the lawyers who ‘practice in the police station for all practical purposes’ are notified by the policemen. The ‘practitioners’ file a bail petition without the instruction of the accused. Then, when the accused appears through his authorised counsel, is unable to pursue the bail application, as it is dubbed to be “Double Bail' or the second one. The magistrate makes it clear that the first one has to be withdrawn, for him to proceed with the second. ‘Terms’ are worked out between the accused and the ‘'first lawyer’ with policemen 'counselling a compromise’. Get the point. Justice K. Chandru exposed the chinks in the profession and the underbelly did not 'smell of roses’ as Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul observed. And the avocation of lawyers christened as ‘ambulance chasers’ was also the subject matter of a report of Justice K. Chandru thanks to the mandate of Justice P.N. Prakash, which also exposed the ‘umbilical nexus and well oiled machinery in place between the police and lawyers’. Let’s say no more. That is one ‘side of the coin’, It is a pan-India phenomenon, and not unique to Tamil Nadu.
The ‘other side’ is, what was brutally exposed on February 19, 2009, ‘when the police and lawyer community clashed inside the precincts of the temple of legal administration - Madras high court, revealing visceral hatred worse than between an estranged couple in matrimony’. (Justice Srikrishna report). Till date, there has been no closure, as litigation is seemingly pending before the apex court. Add
the March 2, 2012, violent incidents in Bangalore city civil court, on ‘adverse media coverage of an accused politician, between police and lawyers, which injured over 80 and damaged vehicles and properties. Despite judicial enquiry and Special Investigation Team, closure? This is too serious a dispute to be resolved.
And then what triggered the police-lawyers clash in Delhi Tis Hazari court complex on November 2? An innocuous dispute over parking slot use or misuse. Anything new? On April 25, lawyers and staff of the Howrah district court and employees of the Howrah Municipal Corporation fought a pitched battle for hours over parking of vehicles at the civic headquarters. At least 20 people were injured after being hit by flying stones and police batons during the clash on Mahatma Gandhi Road. And Mahatma Gandhi was a lawyer too.
Let’s get real. The estrangement now acting out in Delhi, between lawyers and police is a violent interlude, between those in holy matrimony, meant to last forever. It will never end in divorce. For the reality is police and lawyers are a law unto themselves and they need each other more than us. It may make robust common and logical sense to let it pass, awaiting the police and lawyers to get together for ‘their common cause’, and then again for the next ‘violent interlude’. It is but a karmic not dharmic cycle.
(Author is practising advocate in the Madras High Court)...