Defying a Supreme Court order banning protests at the Patiala House Courts where students and journalists were assaulted Monday, a group of lawyers again went on the rampage Wednesday, this time attacking JNU student leader Kanhaiya Kumar when he was being produced in court in a sedition case. Journalists on the court premises were also roughed up despite heavy police presence.
Kanhaiya, who was sent to judicial custody in Tihar Jail for 14 days, had to be taken out of the complex by policemen who dressed him in riot gear and used shields to protect him. He was confined to a courtroom for three hours because the lawyers had laid siege — among them was advocate Vikram Singh Chauhan who had led Monday’s attack.
Chanting Vande Mataram and waving the Tricolour, the lawyers had forced their way into the court complex. “A person has come dressed as a lawyer and beaten him up (Kanhaiya) inside the court premises,” defence lawyer Vrinda Grover said. “The police couldn’t do anything, it’s a complete violation of the Supreme Court order.”
Kanhaiya was attacked twice — the first assault took place when he was being led into the court premises and again when he was entering Court Number 3. “A man wearing a grey blazer and sporting dark glasses thrashed him,” JNU professor Himanshu said.
In a written submission to Metropolitan Magistrate Lovleen, Kanhaiya said his “hair was pulled” and his “chest boxed”. The court ordered his medical examination inside the court room in view of “the hostile conditions prevalent outside court room (as is evident from the sloganeering available inside the court room and the statement given by the accused), it is directed that DCP shall personally ensure safety of the accused”.
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A doctor from RML Hospital, who examined him, told The Indian Express that Kanhaiya had “abrasions” on his nose and “bruises on his toes”.
In a statement at the start of the proceedings, Kanhaiya said: “I am an Indian, I have full faith in the Constitution of the country as well as the judiciary of India. The media trial against me is very painful. If there is evidence against me that I am a traitor, then you please send me to jail. But if there no evidence against me, there should be no media trial.”
Under fire for his handling of the JNU row, Delhi Police Commissioner B S Bassi, who had gone to the Prime Minister’s Office in the morning, said if Kanhaiya applies for bail, then police will not object to it.
“I personally feel, a young person… perhaps be given bail,” he told reporters. This was a complete U-turn because Bassi had earlier said police had enough “evidence” against Kanhaiya.
By evening, the Home Ministry, which had sought a report from Bassi, announced Alok Verma as his successor.
Union Home Secretary Rajiv Mehrishi said: “I have spoken to the Delhi Police Commissioner and asked him to send a report by evening. The Supreme Court is apprised of the matter. It is a very serious matter. If anyone has violated the law, action will be taken in accordance with law.”
Bassi denied Kanhaiya was “beaten up” and said use of “heavy force” against lawyers would have been “counter-productive” and “inappropriate”.
“I do not think he was beaten up… We expected jostling and considering that, he was escorted by a requisite number of police officers. He was taken care of by our officers,” he told reporters.
He said use of force would have been counter-productive. “Lawyers are officers of the court. When we are dealing with officers… unless… use of heavy force would have been inappropriate in this case.”
He cited earlier instances of violence involving lawyers in Madras High Court, Allahabad High Court and elsewhere to make the point that lawyers have to be handled carefully. “We have managed the situation. There was no breach of peace. We have followed norms of prudent policing,” he said.