And Justice to None
by Eye Witness on 21 Mar 2009 2 Comments

[A group of persons including visitors, litigants and victims in the Madras High Court constituted ourselves as ‘Citizens for Justice’ with the sole objective of breaking the silence over the events of 17 &and 19 February 2009, which lay the onus for the entire sequence of violence squarely on the lawyers. We intend to calibrate our actions to culminate in getting this section of hoodlums and criminal lawyers de-barred from all Tamil Nadu courts – B.R.  Haran, Uma Anandan, Vishwanath Swamy, Suresh Ram, and Radha Rajan]

It is with a seething sense of disbelief that we the undersigned read the interim judgment on writ petition W.P (PIL) No. 3335/09 on the events of 19 February 2009 in the Madras High Court, delivered on 18 March 2009.

We were compelled to speak out in public because we believe that we, the victims of 17 February 2009, have so far been ignored by the judiciary, even though we had deposed before Justice Srikrishna on 28 February 2009. The reasons for our outrage and deep distress are hereby presented in the court of the people: 

1] The three-member division bench which heard the Writ Petition has ordered the suspension of two senior police officers.

2] This suspension is in addition to that of five senior police officers already punitively transferred out of Chennai on the orders of the Chief Justice of India.

3] Both the Supreme Court and the Madras High Court have reduced the whole despicable sequence of events to what the lawyers wanted, and have doled out punishment to a high pillar of democracy and the State – the police - without any commensurate, demonstrable, punitive measure against the errant lawyers.

4] Such a demonstrable measure against the delinquent lawyers was called for, considering that Justice Srikrishna indicted them unambiguously in the interim report he submitted to the Supreme Court.

5] Four of us were present in Court Hall 3 on 17 February, when a bunch of lawyer-hoodlums entered the court and unleashed 15 minutes of physical and verbal violence against Dr. Subramanian Swamy and some visitors in court that day.

6] The interim judgment of 18 March by Mr. Justices S.K. Mukhopadhyaya, K. Chandru and V. Dhanapal, repeatedly cites ‘contempt of court’ by the police, for having allegedly entered the court premises without prior permission from the Acting Chief Justice.

7] Two senior police officers have been suspended for contempt of court/alleged excesses. But the lawyers who violated the sanctity of the court premises and barged into Court Hall 3 on 17 February; lawyers who physically molested us, the undersigned, on that day; lawyers who raised abusive slogans against a particular caste inside the court; lawyers who hurled eggs and assaulted Dr. Swamy inside the court; lawyers who demanded the arrest of Mr. Justices Chandru and P.K. Mishra; lawyers who declared publicly that they rejected the interim report of Justice Srikrishna and burnt his effigy and his report; lawyers who celebrated inside the High Court premises the birthday of internationally notified Sri Lankan terrorist V. Prabhakaran, found guilty of assassinating a former Prime Minister of India; lawyers who raised slogans in support of the terrorist and his terrorist organization which is banned in the country, have not been held guilty of contempt of court.

Till date, the unseemly activism displayed by the Supreme Court and Madras High Court to punish the Police for contempt of court and alleged excesses, has not been matched by an anxiety to punish the lawyers for the same offence.

8] While the State has taken stern action under NSA against Nanjil Sampath and Director Seeman for their public support to the LTTE, it is expected of the Judiciary that it will deal with lawyers advocating the cause of notified terrorists and terrorist organizations just as sternly. It is inexplicable why it has failed to do so.

Moreover, it is our considered view that when anti-national activities are held within the premises of one of the tallest pillars of democracy – the Courts – with impunity, then the officers and leaders of that pillar are complicit in that activity.

9] The inference is clear. The judiciary does not think unbecoming conduct and violent behaviour by lawyers against ordinary citizens, or action violating the law of the land and violating their oath of office, as tantamount to contempt of court and deserving of immediate, demonstrable, and stringent punishment.

It has opted instead to meet only the demands of the lawyer fraternity – to punish the police for what both the Supreme Court and the Madras High Court consider contempt of court / excesses.

10] This order has set a new trend and precedent in judicial process. A new concept of ‘judicial relief’ as against justice delivery has now been coined.

11] It is a matter of grave concern that a judge who has been held to account by the Justice Srikrishna Interim Report for being soft on the errant lawyers, has actually presided over the division bench on 18 March 2009. It is the considered view of ordinary citizens that Mr. Justice Mukhopadhyaya would have set high standards of judicial propriety had he voluntarily declined to sit on the bench on this case.

12] We, the undersigned, through the forum of public opinion, demand that the Madras High Court act immediately to punish the lawyers guilty of violence, verbal abuse, unbecoming conduct, and violation of the law of this land. Failure to do so will send the signal that well-organized violence and sustained misconduct by any group always pays, and when the group is the lawyer fraternity, then the Judiciary itself will stoop to appeasement.

13] We therefore demand that the Madras High Court issue orders to the concerned associations and councils to de-bar these lawyers immediately, just as it was quick to order action against senior Police Officers.

14] These sad events have unfortunate implications for the rule of law in the country because there is a danger of ordinary citizens not only losing faith, but also respect, for the judicial system.

15] We, and the people of Tamil Nadu, as also the people of India, demand to know – what does the Supreme Court and the Madras High Court intend to do with the interim report of Mr. Justice Srikrishna, specifically its recommendations regarding amending the Advocates’ Act, and in the meantime, formulating guidelines for the conduct of lawyers?

Please speak up Mr. Justices, the nation is listening – with bated breath.

[B.R. Haran, Uma Anandan, Vishwanath Swamy, Suresh Ram, Radha Rajan]

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