What began reportedly as a dispute over parking between a constable of the 3rd Battalion of the Delhi Police and an advocate at Tis Hazari court has turned into an unprecedented and shameful face-off that undermines the entire justice system in the national capital. After the violent clash at Tis Hazari on Saturday, where eight advocates and 20 policemen were injured, the striking lawyers have allegedly assaulted two litigants and a policeman outside the Saket district court. Another constable was thrashed, allegedly, outside the Karkardooma court. There have also been other reports of assaults on journalists, citizens and police by lawyers. Now, as a cycle of threats, protests and counter-protests continues, amid appeals from top police officials to maintain calm, there is little for the citizen to take away in terms of a silver lining.
That lawyers, as officers of the court — or even just as citizens — have an ethical duty to maintain basic standards of legality and public decency, should not be something that needs to be stated explicitly. Yet, it must be. As recently as 2016, lawyers attacked journalists at the Patiala House court during the then JNU student leader Kanhaiya Kumar’s hearing on charges of sedition. Kumar too was assaulted at the same time. These incidents are just some examples from the many across the country where lawyers have openly flouted the law, resorted to violence and violated the spirit of the Constitution.
The criminal justice system in India is an intimidating beast. The police and the legal fraternity have a responsibility to make it less so, to be available to and accessible for ordinary people. As of now, that is certainly not the case in the capital. Those meant to uphold the rule of law are breaking it in the most crass manner possible, those who are meant to ensure order are bringing chaos to the streets. The fact that the root of the violence, and the face-off, is something as petty as a parking spot only shows what little regard officers of the law have for their own professions. The way forward is straightforward: Those who have indulged in violence, whether donning khaki or a black coat, must be brought to book. The protesting policemen who feel that the government and senior leadership of the force has little regard for those of their colleagues that have been injured must be reassured. And then, perhaps, we can see something that resembles the rule of law in Delhi.