New Delhi: A series of incidents that turned violent rocked the Patiala House Court in New Delhi on Wednesday, and compelled people to ask these two questions:
• Patiala House Court lawyers ko gussa kyun aata hai? (Why do Patiala House Court lawyers get angry?)
• Why did the Patiala House court suddenly turn into a ‘kangaroo court’ on Wednesday?
The court virtually turned into a fortress due to heavy deployment of police force right from Wednesday morning. All entries to go inside the court were blocked. And the court witnessed a replay of the incident on Monday when a group of lawyers had beaten up journalists inside the court premises. The lawyers turned violent once again, raising slogans and physically assaulting JNU Students’ Union president Kanhaiya Kumar in the presence of the police.
They allegedly pelted stones at and heckled a team of senior lawyers, including Kapil Sibal, sent by the Supreme Court. In between, a few lawyers also attacked Firstpost journalist Tarique Anwar.
At around 4 pm, a group of advocates emerged on the other side of Gate No 3 and started raising slogans: “Bharat Mata ki Jai; Desh ko thodne walon ko baahar karo; Desh ke gaddaron ko baahar nikaalo”.
But what actually happened inside the court premises?
Speaking to eyewitnesses and advocates who were present inside the Patiala House Court premises, Firstpost tried to find out what incited law-abiding advocates to take up law in their own hands and convert the court premises into a ‘kangaroo court’.
Attack on Kanhaiya Kumar
The showdown took place in the court premises during the first hour, when a police team entered through Gate No 4 on the backside along with Kanhaiya Kumar. The JNUSU president was to be presented in a court for hearing of the sedition case registered against him.
“I was inside the court complex as I had to hand over some documents to my daughter, who is an advocate. I saw a police team enter through Gate No 4 accompanying Kanhaiya Kumar. A large number of advocates were present there. Till then, I wasn’t much aware of the situation, as things seemed normal. But what caught my attention was that a section of lawyers suddenly pounced upon Kanhaiya Kumar and started beating him badly. He fell down but lawyers continued with their assault. Police tried to prevent him from getting thrashed but it didn’t help much. The lawyers outnumbered the police,” 71-year old Dhirendra Sharma narrated this account to Firstpost, after coming out of the court premises.
“Lawyers were more than 100, whereas policemen were only a few. The court should use its CCTV camera footage to find out what happened. It’ll reveal the truth. It’s really surprising how in a democratic system and inside court premises, lawyers blatantly break the law. Kanhaiya Kumar is not a terrorist, rapist or a murderer; but just a student union leader,” added Sharma, who was visibly perturbed by the incident.
Condemning the act of his colleagues, advocate Pritam Bishwas, who was present inside, told Firstpost, “It’s a trickle-down effect of Monday’s incident. Today, when Kanhaiya Kumar entered accompanied by police, a youth in black coat — who looked like a lawyer — started lobbying for Kumar. He started saying that Kanhaiya Kumar was innocent and he shouldn’t be tried, etc. Inside court premises, we all know each other by face. Apparently, this youth looked like he was new and he was from Sonepat and wasn’t a lawyer. He was an AISF activist. This suddenly enraged a group of lawyers and in the heat of the moment, they attacked Kumar, which was very bad and an unfortunate incident.”
Bishwas also recounted the incident on Monday. “On Monday, when the hearing related to this JNU issue was supposed to take place at the Metropolitan Magistrate’s court, JNU students, activists and teachers gathered and some of them occupied chairs inside the courtroom meant for the lawyers, as the latter sit and wait for their turns. When a few lawyers requested them to vacate the chairs, one lady faculty member of JNU shouted at us, ‘Tum log Modi ke dalle ho’ and used abusive language. This led to Monday’s fiasco. It was again a shameful incident,” claimed Bishwas.
Stones hurled at SC-appointed panel
Following instruction from the Supreme Court, a five-member advocate panel as Court Commissioners visited Patiala House Court in the second half to assess the situation on developments in Kanhaiya's case.
“A group of lawyers inside court premises shouted slogans and pelted stones at the advocate panel that had Kapil Sibal in it. They shouted that those trying to save the traitors should be thrown out. It was horrifying,” a young advocate who was also present on the spot later told Firstpost on condition of anonymity.
"It was again condemnable. The lawyers who did that weren’t aware that the team was sent by the Supreme Court, and they thought that they have come to plead for Kumar,” justified Bishwas.
'We're not BJP followers,' say lawyers
A group of lawyers appeared on the other side of the locked Gate No 3. They first gave slogans and then gave sound bytes to channels. In between, they had heated arguments with a few reporters.
“We came out to tell the public why people — who hate the country where they live, earn livelihood, are bona fide citizens and have valid passports — should not be allowed to raise anti-national slogans like ‘Bharat ki barbaadi tak...etc’. If these students, who are thriving on subsidised education which comes from taxpayers’ money, have so much hatred for their nation, they should leave it. As law abiding citizens, we can’t let this happen. And it’s your media which asks us whether we’re ‘Sanghi’ and ‘BJP followers’. We’re not and as an Indian, we won’t tolerate this,” said advocate Kumar Ranjan, who was also a part of the group.
“As lawyers, we know the law, the Constitution and what freedom of speech, which is never absolute, means. Former PM Indira Gandhi curbed the freedom of press and many others. Now, the government isn’t doing anything like this. It doesn’t allow anyone to raise such slogans and support terrorists like Afzal Guru or Kasab. This is the reason why lawyers are so angry,” added Bishwas.
However, the lawyers don’t have the answer to this question: Under which right of the Constitution, can they hold a ‘Kangaroo court’ within the court premises?