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BRP Bhaskar: Menace of lawless lawyers
July 05, 2016
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Exclusive to The Gulf Today

Lawbreakers in advocate’s robes trying to overawe the judiciary, lower court judges resorting to trade union tactics, politicians looking on passively if not actually encouraging recalcitrant elements, and higher courts unable or unwilling to discipline the unruly – these are sure signs of evolving threats to Rule of the Law.

Such elements have surfaced in different states from time to time. In the state of Telangana, which was carved out of sprawling Andhra Pradesh two years ago following a prolonged agitation, they have all manifested themselves at the same time.

The law providing for bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh stipulated that the governments of Telangana and the residuary Andhra Pradesh will both function from Hyderabad, which is in the former’s territory, until the latter built a separate capital and that the undivided Andhra Pradesh High Court based in Hyderabad would serve both the states until Telangana set up a separate high court.

The separation turned messy as the two states started squabbling over division of water and power. A new point of friction developed when the AP High Court allocated members of the lower judiciary to the two states, leading to protests by judges and lawyers in Telangana alleging the state got a raw deal. Their agitation paralysed the lower courts, causing immense hardship to litigants.

At least 130 judges allotted to Telangana are said to belong to the residuary Andhra Pradesh state. About 100 judges attended a meeting to protest against their appointment. The High Court suspended 10 agitating judges. The members of the Telangana Judicial Officers Association then threatened to resign en masse.

Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhara Rao joined the fray by dashing off a letter to the Centre demanding immediate setting up of a separate high court for the state. Union Law Minister Sadananda Gowda’s thoughtless remark comparing Rao with Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, who is involved in a running battle with the Centre, embittered public opinion.

Agitating lawyers taking the law into their own hands is by no means a rare phenomenon in India today.

Last October, in Tamil Nadu, a large group of lawyers held rallies on the premises of the Madras High Court in Chennai, barged into courtrooms shouting slogans and staged a sit-in outside Chief Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul’s court while he was presiding over the proceedings. They were demanding, among other things, withdrawal of contempt proceedings against two Madurai-based leaders of the bar association. The Madurai bench of the high court had witnessed unruly scenes earlier.

According to a media report, some judges and lawyers hold that recurrence of such incidents is the result of a steady intrusion of criminal elements into the legal profession. Lawyers and policemen have clashed in the vicinity of Chennai courts on several occasions.

Tamil Nadu Bar Council Vice-Chairman PS Amalraj estimates that only 15 per cent of the state’s 80,000 advocates are involved in disruptive activities. Many of them are not practising lawyers, he says.

In an attempt to ensure purity of the justice delivery system, Madras High Court judge N Kirubakaran recently directed the Bar Council of India not to enrol as lawyers persons involved in criminal cases.

Similar incidents have been reported from other states like Uttar Pradesh too. However, the criminal records of lawyers in the states pale into insignificance when compared to pro-BJP lawyers in the national capital. Early this year, they physically assaulted Jawaharlal Nehru University Union president Kanhaiya Kumar, whom the police had charged with sedition on a dubious complaint by the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, a pro-BJP student organisation, on two occasions when he was produced in the courts.

They also pounced upon JNU professors who came to express solidarity with the students, media personnel who were there to cover the court proceedings and a team of senior lawyers who were deputed by the Supreme Court to watch the proceedings and report it.

The Delhi police, which is directly under the BJP-ruled Centre, remained mute spectators when the lawyers indulged in hooliganism. Rejecting media reports which referred to the lawless lawyers as goons, their spokesman claimed they were patriots!

It was easy to identify the men who assaulted Kanhaiya Kumar on the court premises as video recordings of the attack by lawyers were available. Yet, neither the Delhi police nor the Bar Council of India pursued the matter expeditiously. As a result, the culprits remain unpunished.

Scandalised by the developments which took place under its very nose, as it were, the Supreme Court warned of strong action. However, there has been no action so far.

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 The author is a political analyst of reckoning

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