The Supreme Court on Wednesday directed Delhi Police Chief B S Bassi to personally ensure safety and security of persons including arrested JNUSU President Kanhaiya Kumar,who is facing sedition charge, in Patiala House courts complex here after a fresh round of violence broke out.
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The order was given on a day of fast paced developments when the court had to step in and rush a six-member panel of advocates appointed by it to Patiala House courts in the afternoon after it was apprised of fresh incidents of violence involving persons in black robes.
After the panel gave an oral report mentioning that situation at the Patiala House Court was “unprecedented” and the “atmosphere was of fear and terrorising” and that Kumar was “manhandled”, a bench comprising Justices J Chelameswar and A M Sapre made it clear that “the responsibility is exclusively is that of the Commissioner of Police, Delhi to ensure the safety of the accused.”
The panel claimed they bore the brunt of people in lawyers’ robes who hurled abuses and expletives at them.
“This particular atmosphere is unprecedented. Police did not do their job. The crowd broke the cordon and threw water bottles and sharp-edged flower pots on us. This is broadly the report,” they said, adding that “there is a serious threat to the life and safety of the accused and this police will be unable to save him.”
Inside the courtroom, the judges said, “We also direct that Commissioner of Police shall take necessary steps to ensure the safety of the accused until he is produced next before the trial court.
“We may place on record that it is reported today by the members of the Committee that the accused was manhandled while he was produced before the Court today. We therefore make it clear that the responsibility is exclusively is that of the Commissioner of Police, Delhi to ensure the safety of the accused,” it said and posted the matter for hearing tomorrow.
Kumar, who is facing sedition charge for allegedly raising anti-India slogans, has been remanded in judicial custody by a Metropolitan court till March 2.
The top court had earlier in the day issued directions to Police and the Delhi High Court Registry in the morning to ensure safe and smooth proceedings in the lower court but again had to step in in the afternoon after it was told that violence had erupted.
The team of six senior lawyers comprising Kapil Sibal, Rajeev Dhavan, Dushyant Dave, A D N Rao, Ajit K Sinha and Harin Raval, was rushed by the bench in police protection to the lower court to assess the ground situation.
Soon after the lunch recess at 2.15 pm, senior advocates Kapil Sibal, Indira Jaising and advocate Prashant Bhushan made an “extraordinary mention” in the court that inspite of the order passed in the forenoon, a tense situation is building up in the Patiala House Courts Complex, where a group of lawyers and others are resorting to violence threatening the security of Kanhaiya Kumar and his counsel.
They informed that the Metropolitan Magistrate in the Patiala House Courts Complex where the proceedings were going on, in order to ensure the safety of those persons, has directed Kanhaiya and his counsel to take shelter in his chamber.
The court noted the plea of the advocates that appropriate directions be given in the situation to rescue the accused and his lawyers and that even the five journalists who were allowed to attend the proceedings were feeling afraid of their safety.
Taking on record the submission, the bench called upon senior advocate Ajit K Sinha, who was representing the Commissioner of Police, Delhi to contact him and obtain instructions within ten minutes as to the situation prevailing in the Patiala House Courts Complex.
The court noted that despite making several calls Sinha was unable to contact the Police Commissioner, understandably because of the situation.
Later, he contacted him and took instructions about the prevailing situation.
Accordingly, the bench appointed six senior members of the Bar to proceed to the Patiala House Courts Complex and report the situation prevailing there.
Noting all the developments, the bench said, “In the above mentioned circumstances, we thought it fit to depute some members of the Bar of this Court to observe the situation and report to this Court. We also believe the presence of the senior advocates might help defuse the tension.”
The bench also called the DCP (Security) of the Supreme Court complex Mahesh Bhardwaj and asked him to provide protection to the six-member panel for taking them to the apex court.
The bench also orally asked Sinha to make a request to the magistrate that if needed the proceedings before him can be adjourned and those present inside the court room can be evacuated.
On their return, the six-member panel orally gave the ground report saying that the situation at the Patiala House Court was “unprecedented” and the “atmosphere was of fear and terrorising” as even they have bore the brunt of people in lawyers’ robes who gave them the choicest of the abuses.
Raval, a member of the panel of senior advocates, submitted he had filmed the entire incident at Patiala House on his mobile and taht he will submit a copy of it to the court tomorrow.
The panel said they were able to reach the court room in the police cordon, which was broken by the errant crowd and after meeting Kanhaiya they came to know that he was beaten outside the court room and even inside a person in dark specs, who had made an unauthorised entry, had given him a thump.
The team of lawyers said when they asked DCP Jatin Narwal, he had no answer as to how that person had entered the court room and why he did not stop him or got him arrested when even asked by the accused.
After hearing the oral report, the bench asked Sinha to talk to the police commissioner to inform that he will be responsible for any untoward incident and whether he was in a position to ensure full security to Kanhaiya and others.
Sinha got back saying that the police commissioner has assured him that there will be 100 per cent security to Kanhaiya and no harm would be caused to him and he will be safe and secure.
The bench in its order noted that the members of the Committee who visited the Patiala House courts complex pursuant to the orders passed earlier returned and made an oral report of the events they observed.
It asked them to submit the report in writing tomorrow.
The bench also asked senior advocate Sidhharth Luthra, who was representing the Delhi High Court Registry, to submit a report in writing about the observations made by the Registrar General of the High court who was present in the proceedings in the noon in the Patiala House court Complex by 2 pm tomorrow.
Sinha was asked to submit a report on behalf of the police by Friday, 10.30 am.
The bench noted the submission of Sinha that on instructions he has spoken to the Commissioner of Police, Delhi, who has personally assured the safety of the accused and all others who were permitted to attend today’s proceedings before the trial court pursuant to the order passed in the morning.
During the hearing of the case in the morning, the plea seeking appropriate directions to Centre to ensure a proper and decorus conduct of the proceedings in the court of Metropolitan Magistrate, Patiala House Court, regarding the incident which allegedly took place in the campus of JNU was taken up by the bench.
Senior advocate K T S Tulsi appearing for the petitioner N D Jayaprakash said that on February 15, when Kanhaiya Kumar was produced before the Court, a lot of people gathered including the members of the legal fraternity, students and their “supporters” and a large number of media persons.
He said that violence took place inside the court room in which the accused and several media persons were injured and were branded as “anti-nationals”
“Violence inside the court room is not accepted and sanctity of judicial proceedings has to be maintained. The police personnel present there remained a mute spectator and cameras of media personnel were broken and they were heckled,” he said.
The bench observed that in incidents like these everyone blames police and if police acts, then they say excess has been committed.
“Please remember before coming to blame the police. Remember what had happened in Madras High Court (referring to clash between lawyers and police some years back). Blamegame is not going to help anybody. Moderation is needed in every section of the society. When police intervenes both sides blame it of excesses,” the bench said.
Again when the issue of police inaction for the February 15 incident when teachers, students and scribes were thrashed by the lawyers was raised, the bench said “position of police is not very comfortable.”
“Why I am saying so you have to remember. Remember about the incident that happened in the Madras High Court. Today that very court is under protection of the CISF,” Justice Chelameswar said.
Tulsi alleged that Commissioner of Police has termed the February 15 incident as a minor scuffle but in no way it can be termed as a minor incident as several persons were injured.
Several petitions were moved as intervening application including from that of All India Lawyers Union and said that since case of Kanhaiya Kumar is to be taken up again by the magistrate at 2pm today proper security should be ensured.
Apprehensions were expressed by various lawyers that the proceedings may not go on in an atmosphere in which legal proceedings are normally expected to be conducted.
Advocate Prashant Bhushan who intervened in his own capacity and other lawyers submitted that appropriate directions be given to ensure that the proceedings are conducted in accordance with law.
While Bhushan and other lawyers were making submissions in surcharged atmosphere in the jam packed court room, a lawyer Rajiv Yadav started shouting slogan inside the court hall.
The bench asked the security personnel to bring him before it after which he tendered an unconditional apology for his behaviour.
The apology was accepted by the court and the matter was closed.
“All of us are patriotic. Nobody is demeaning the mother land but in no one is allowed to take law in their own hands,” the bench said.
The bench agreed with the contention of the lawyers representing different parties and said in order to ensure conduct of the proceedings before the trial Court are undertaken today in a ordinarily manner, it is necessary to regulate the entry of people in the Court.
Senior advocate Siddharth Luthra appearing for Delhi High Court informed the court that a meeting of administrative committee was scheduled at 2pm and a report has been sought from the District Judge Patiala House Court regarding the February 15 violence.
The bench then issued slew of directions regarding entries into the the court room and allowed six lawyers of the accused and the prosecution.
The court said that since the accused is a young student, it allowed immediate family members of the accused, not exceeding four, on an identification by the accused.
“If such family members are not there, then one from the faculty and one from the student community identified by the accused shall be permitted into the Court(if they are present),” the bench said.
The apex court further said that due to constraints of the space in the magisterial court hall, it allowed only five journalists to enter to cover the proceedings.
The bench also directed the police to take appropriate measures to maintain the law and order situation in accordance with the law and clarified that the said directions were for the proceedings of the day only.
It also sought the decision taken by the Delhi High Court Administrative Committee within a week after the decision is recorded.