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Order,order

Madras High Court lawyers behaved appallingly. They must be dealt with sternly

Written by The Indian Express |
February 21, 2009 2:00:50 am

The sight of men-in-black running (gowns twirling) from men-in-khaki (lathis twirling) was oddly familiar. The Madras High Court on Thursday resembled its Lahore counterpart,where pro-democracy lawyers took on the then president of Pakistan,Pervez Musharraf,over the suspension of the then Supreme Court chief justice. But the motives of the lawyers in Chennai were far less noble. A day earlier,a group of lawyers had attacked Janata Party President Subramanian Swamy in full view of two judges. They had objected to remarks against the LTTE,a terrorist group banned in India. Fearing their brethren’s arrest,a much larger group of lawyers set fire to a police station in the court premises,attacked the police,smashed up court property,and injured a sitting judge of the high court.

The absurdity of lawyers jettisoning the reason,deliberation and calm that define their professional conduct is obvious. The arson committed by the Madras High Court lawyers — in any case,against the law — is all the more disquieting for taking place in court. The culprits must be dealt with in the strictest possible manner. Already,the Tamil Nadu lawyers’ reputation for constant strikes has led even the Supreme Court to pass strong comments. But in this they are hardly unique. As the recent strike by the Delhi Bar Association on amendments to the criminal procedure code shows,lawyers all too often have scant regard for the disruptions they cause petitioners and litigants. By striking repeatedly and for little cause,they bring India’s torturously slow legal system to a grinding halt.

The arson on the court premises dominated the Tamil Nadu state legislature on Thursday,with the opposition AIADMK demanding the DMK government’s dismissal for the “failure of law and order”. Thankfully,Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi has also deplored the incident,and accepted the demand for a CBI inquiry. But Tamil Nadu’s politicians can’t escape all blame. By keeping the Sri Lanka issue on the fast burner,and blurring the line between being pro-civilian and pro-LTTE lobbying,they have provided the context in which these lawyers have taken the law into their hands. It is hoped that the arsonists are dealt with sternly.

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