Support terror, commit treason, get away with it
by B R Haran on 19 Mar 2009 5 Comments

As the LTTE kept losing its bastions one by one to the advancing Sri Lankan Army and as chief Prabhakaran was on the run to save his life while young Tigers sacrificed their lives, the ethnic (sic) Dravidian politicians of Tamil Nadu started enacting different dramas of one-upmanship to project themselves as champions of the Sri Lankan Tamil cause. In the process, they roped in their cadres - women, youth, trade unions, lawyers and even students - to join the protest movement. All pro-LTTE parties, especially the DK, PMK, VCK and MDMK, formed a separate forum for the exclusive purpose of supporting LTTE.

While the TNCC remained silent, DMK being a part of the Congress-led UPA government, has been forced to walk a tightrope on the Sri Lankan Tamils issue. But the AIADMK, which has been against the cause of “Tamil Eelam” for years, suddenly shifted its stand and supremo Jayalalithaa staged a day-long fast in support of Tamil Eelam, though not in support of LTTE, protesting against the Sri Lankan government and condemning the Central and State governments. The politics of Tamil Eelam caught on even with the BJP, which jumped on to the bandwagon of the pro-LTTE parties. 

The issue: A section of lawyers violently supporting a banned terrorist organisation abusing the court premises and law chambers.

As temperatures rose, the legal fraternity took to frequent protest demonstrations. The birthday of LTTE chief Prabhakaran was celebrated in the premises of Chennai High Court in November 2008 by a section of lawyers. Since then, the lawyers have been indulging in some form of protest or other quite often.

As the politics over the issue deteriorated, a major section of lawyers upped the ante and various lawyers’ associations declared boycott of court proceedings and forcefully prevented other sincere lawyers from work, sometimes intimidating them. Senior advocates were even manhandled in front of judges and prevented from attending to their work.

While walking a tightrope with the Centre, the State Government turned a blind eye to the continuous boycott of courts in Tamil Nadu. The hapless judiciary could not reign in the unruly lawyers and allowed them to use the court premises and corridors for demonstrations in support of the LTTE. The right-thinking section of senior advocates lacked the spine to control the unruly section of the fraternity. The indifference shown by the State, Bar and Judiciary led to the unsavoury episode on 17 February, resulting in the untoward violence on 19 February. 

The organisation
: The anti-national organisation and the seriousness of the issue. 

LTTE is a nationally and internationally banned terrorist organisation. It has killed a number of “Tamil” leaders in Sri Lanka. It has been reported that LTTE has killed more Tamils and Muslims than the Sri Lankan Army in the last 25 years. Moreover, it has played havoc on Indian soil and assassinated a former Indian Prime Minister, along with a dozen police officers and civilians.
Ironically, the State Government, Bar and Judiciary allowed this particular section of lawyers to demonstrate in support of the banned LTTE for several days without taking any action against them as per the law of the land. 

In the first two months of this calendar year, the High Court functioned just for ten days. This month, after the arrival of new Chief Justice H.L. Gokhale, some petty cases are being taken on merit with poor litigants arguing themselves. Other courts in the State have also not worked for many days. Who is going to be held accountable for this? Why should “Indian Tamils” suffer for the sake of “Eelam terrorists”? Can an irresponsible bunch of lawyers solve the 30-year old ethnic issue by boycotting courts here? It seems there are no answers to these questions! 

Later developments: What happened after Justice Srikrishna Commission’s report.

When the Supreme Court transferred the concerned cases back to the Madras High Court and advised the lawyers to attend to their duties, the latter refused to budge and continued their protests by ‘burning’ the Srikrishna Commission report, which strongly indicted them for unruly conduct and indulgence in violence.

Advocate S. Doraisamy, of Dravidar Kazhagam, moved the High Court for a direction to the CBI to register an FIR on his complaint, in which he alleged that following instructions from the Chief Minister, the Home Secretary had directed the DGP and City Police Commissioner to beat agitating advocates. He sought registration of cases against the police under IPC Sections 120B (criminal conspiracy) and Section 307 (attempt to murder)! The Women Lawyers Association moved the High Court to take criminal action against all police personnel involved in the violent incidents. It contended that the police violated the ‘human rights’ of the advocates. 

Meanwhile, based on the advice of the Chief Minister and the resolution passed by the party, some DMK and DK lawyers started attending court. On 13 March, when the First Bench comprising Chief Justice H.L. Gokhale and Justice F.M. Ibrahim Kalifulla refused to suspend the police officers through an ex-parte order, and as it was giving interim orders after hearing the batch of petitions from the advocates, the latter are believed to have created a ruckus on the point that the Government Pleader was trying to drag on the issue.

They reportedly shouted at the Chief Justice, “Shame, shame! Go back to Allahabad”. A section of the media reported that the advocates hurled vulgar invectives. An English daily said, “Mercifully the CJ does not understand Tamil”! It seemed the Government Pleader had to sneak away through the judge’s exit, fearing physical attack from the lawyers.

The High Court warned the lawyers through a circular that cases would be decided on “merit” in the event of lawyers continuing the boycott. Reacting to this warning, the lawyers submitted memoranda to the Registrar General expressing their desire to opt out of the cases and return the same to the litigants. The state level Joint Action Committee of advocates resolved to abstain from functions organized by courts throughout Tamil Nadu. Through another resolution, they requested lawyers in the legal aid panel not to accept any assignment or brief referred by any court of law. The lawyers decided to conduct a huge protest rally on 19 March.

In this scenario, legal and constitutional experts expressed dismay over the indifference of the State, Bar and Judiciary. The lawyers, while taking oath of office, express solidarity with the nation! Hence, supporting a banned organisation is violation of the oath and also treason! Using law chambers and court premises for such anti-national activities is punishable under law. 

Authorities & actions: What the authorities could have done and how they fared.

First, the Chief Justice of the High Court has enough powers to take action against lawyers who violate the oath of office and indulge in sedition. Yet the lawyers have been allowed their seditious actions. Even though the lawyers indulged in orally abusing and physically attacking litigants right in front of a divisional bench, the Chief Justice has not felt the need to punish those unruly lawyers, despite the recording of the event by the concerned divisional bench.  

Second, the Bar Council of Tamil Nadu should have taken immediate action against lawyers who rallied for a banned organisation. In the absence of constructive action from the Bar Council of Tamil Nadu, the Bar Council of India should have instructed the State Bar Council to act according to the rules and regulations. Had the council taken timely action and punished the lawyers at least on 17 February, the untoward violence of 19 February could have been averted. Unfortunately, both Bar Councils failed in their duty. 

Third, the State Government should have considered the issue of lawyers supporting a banned terrorist organisation as a serious law and order problem and dealt with it according to the law. Instead, the ruling party played politics with the opposition and failed to realise the gravity of the situation. It has remained a spectator to the continuing boycott of courts, concerned more about its electoral prospects. 

Fourth, the Supreme Court of India (read Chief Justice of India) should have issued a “Writ Mandamus” to the High Court to take action against the unruly lawyers. But even when a petition against the continuing boycott by lawyers came up for hearing, it preferred only to ‘advise’ the lawyers to return to work. Again, when it heard the petitions regarding the High Court violence, it preferred to constitute a judicial commission, which was not warranted at all. It should have passed orders for the punishment of the seditious lawyers and facilitated the normal functioning of the High Court. Instead, it preferred to order “punishment transfers” for Police Commissioners and “words of advice” for treacherous lawyers supporting an anti-national terrorist organisation.

The Supreme Court did not take notice of the 17 February episode, and did not consider the fact that the lawyers involved in that episode have over a hundred cases registered against them! When it could order transfer of police officers, why couldn’t it order the arrest of those lawyers? Even after taking up the Justice Srikrishna Commission’s report for hearing, the Supreme Court simply transferred it back to the very same State Judiciary which was condemned by the Commission for “soft-pedaling” the volatile issue. Though such transfer is constitutionally valid, would the State Judiciary take note of the Commission’s report which had condemned it? The lawyers have had the audacity to burn the Commission’s report and continue the boycott, in a show of utmost contempt. 

Fifth and more importantly, there has been not even a murmur from the Centre, the PMO and the President’s office! Here is a State where a section of lawyers have been violently demonstrating in support of a banned terrorist organisation and the courts have not functioned for more than sixty days, but the Central Government has taken no notice! The Cabinet has not bothered to discuss this issue and it is not known if the President’s office has asked the Governor for a report on the collapse of the State’s legal and judicial system!

Just because Tamil Nadu is governed by an ally does not mean the Centre should remain indifferent; just because the Cabinet has not sent any report does not mean the President should remain silent. Here is a most apt case for Article 356, as demanded by the opposition; sadly the Centre is mute.



The author is a senior journalist and lives in Chennai

User Comments Post a Comment

Back to Top