Vehicles were set ablaze, lawyers alleged their colleague was shot at, and police claimed three senior officers were beaten up — Tis Hazari court witnessed dramatic scenes as a row, believed to be over parking, led to a clash on Saturday.
On the lawyers’ claim that a member of their fraternity was injured in “police firing”, Delhi Police Additional PRO Anil Mittal said, “For the safety of undertrial prisoners and in self-defence, police had to resort to firing by aiming in the air. The circumstances of the gunshot injury to the lawyer are being further investigated with the help of the forensic team.”
Delhi Police said an additional DCP-rank officer, two SHOs and at least 17 other personnel were assaulted. According to police, around 2 pm Saturday, an argument took place between advocates and a sentry of the 3rd battalion, posted outside the lock-up for inmates at Tis Hazari court. “The sentry asked an advocate to park his vehicle at a designated spot so the movement of undertrial vehicles is not hindered. This led to an argument and a large number of advocates of the Tis Hazari court assembled near the lock-up. Prima facie, CCTV footage shows lawyers forcefully entering the lock-up and manhandling police officials on duty,” said Mittal, adding that eight advocates had sustained injuries.
At least 12 private motorcycles, a quick response team (QRT) vehicle of the police and eight jail vans outside the lock-up were damaged or set ablaze by lawyers, police claimed. Mittal said, “Due to the burning of vehicles, the undertrials started feeling suffocated and a human chain was formed by police to safely remove them from the lock-up. They were shifted to Tihar Jail.”
The Bar Council of India (BCI), on the other hand, released a statement condemning what it called “brutal action of police against advocates”. “Lawyers have been seriously injured in police firing over a petty issue of car parking… the BCI is sending its team to take stock of the situation and decide further course,” it said.
Vijay Verma, the lawyer who allegedly has a bullet injury, was taken to St Stephen’s Hospital.
Advocate Pankaj Kumar Dubey, who injured his hand, told The Sunday Express that after his hearing got over, he was heading to the parking lot when he saw about a dozen policemen allegedly beating protesting advocates. “They beat us mercilessly inside the court premises. I shielded myself with my arms and my colleagues dragged me from the area. I sustained three stitches on a finger,” he said.
Protests also spilled over to the Karkardooma district court complex in east Delhi, where over a hundred lawyers gathered in the evening. Lawyers have also called for a day-long strike across all Delhi courts, Secretary of the Tis Hazari Bar Association Jaiveer Singh Chauhan said.
Additional DCP (North) Harendera Singh, who was injured in the clash, told The Sunday Express: “When we reached to control the situation, the lawyers were already near the lock-up looking for some police personnel of the 3rd Battalion. We had to lock ourselves inside the lock-up to prevent more violence.”
Mittal said, “A special investigation team of the Crime Branch will investigate the case. It has also been decided that a team headed by a special CP will enquire into the sequence of events.”