Saturday, February 21, 2009

A Note to the Editor in Chief, The New Indian Express, Chennai on the High Court Incidents

Dear Aditya,

I am writing this to you to draw your attention to a set of facts that are relevant to events in the Madras High Court premises on Thursday, the reports on them and your editorial today. And it is necessary to do that given the long and glorious tradition of your newspaper and its reputation of being a crusader against the establishment. I do not have to recall and remind you that your institution has had to suffer at the hands of the establishment for being what it is.

Let us now take up the relevant facts of the case in hand.
(1) The lawyers have been on a course of boycott of courts demanding the intervention by the Union Government to halt the onslaught by the Sri Lankan army in the Tamil dominated Northern region of Sri Lanka. Your paper, like many others, may have a different opinion on the demand as such. But then, is it fair to insist that the lawyers shall not have their opinion on the issue? And when the lawyers boycott courts, they too suffer because the norm of no-work-no-pay applies here as much as in the factories!

(2) Then there is the issue of egg being thrown at Subramanian Swamy and your editorial comment that none of the forums spoke against it. Let me draw your attention to the newspapers the day after and the act was condemned by lawyers of repute. And the Madras High Court has taken suo motu notice of contempt and a five judge bench has been constituted to deal with the case. So, it is not as if the process of law taking its course has been delayed in this regard. In any case, there is no role for the police in this case where the act was committed inside the court hall and the judiciary is already taken up the case.

(3) As for the immediate provocation to the police action on February 19, 2009, the police attribute it to a scuffle inside the police station when a group of lawyers were being arrested. While the facts on this are yet to be established, there is another side to the story. The lawyers had gone to the police station to register a complaint against Subramanian Swamy under sections of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 and demanded Swamy’s arrest. Well. The law provides for the immediate arrest of the person against whom the complaint is made and puts the onus of proving innocent on the accused. I am sure that you will not blame the lawyers for having known the law and insisted that it be implemented. I am also sure that you will not describe this as an instance of the lawyers taking the law into their hands!

(4) This took place at about 3 15 pm that day. And within minutes, the Swift Action Group personnel as well as many senior police officers, wearing helmets and carrying shields and lathis were found chasing anyone and everyone in the premises and on the corridors of the City Civil Court, the Small Causes Court and the Family Court. I do not think I must tell you that the lathis they carried were not the same as the ones they carry on ceremonial occasions; they also put them to liberal use and did not spare Justice Arumughaperumal Adityan in the process. This resort to naked violence, we now know from your own paper (Saturday, February 21, 2009, page two: No permission granted: HC) without obtaining the necessary permission from the appropriate authorities. And it went on, unabated for four hours during which time the police went about smashing up the windshields of the carss parked in the premises, damaging the two wheelers and also the window panes of the various rooms in the court buildings. They wielded the lathis indiscriminately and you could have confirmed, from the footage on the various TV channels, the way the policemen went about smashing up the windshields of the cars parked in the premises.

(5) As for the police station in the premises being set on fire: The sequence of events and the large posse of police personnel in the premises are important facts that have to be factored in this regard. The lathi-charge by the SAG personnel started at about 3 15 pm and there was no let up by them at any point of time. They were moving about the premises and all over the compound since then and beating up anyone and everyone who were seen around. Now, do you believe that the lawyers, who had by now collected themselves inside the MHAA library and also around the chambers of the judges could have reached the police station which is on another side of the premises and set fire to it? And that the police, now made of over five hundred personnel, were unable to protect the police station? And that too when they were successfully made the city court and family court premises into sterile zones? As for the timing, the police began acting at 3 15 pm and the police station caught fire after 6 pm.

(6) There is now the story of one DySP having been held captive inside the office of a Public Prosecutor, that he was stripped naked and that he had sent across an SMS from his mobile phone seeking help and that the police then let the SAG to release him. Does this story sound convincing to you? There was no such explanation on Thursday night. The story, even now does not talk about the specific location of where the police officer was held captive; it does not explain how this officer could use his cell phone when he was being stripped and the only explanation of this would be that he was like one of our filmi heroes who manages to do the right thing even in adverse situations. And if it was the case that a police officer who came to discuss a case with the Public Prosecutor, then tell us the name of the lawyer in whose chamber the officer was held up. And in any case, the Commissioner of Police could have gone up to the Acting Chief Justice or the Registrar General to tell them the story and then ordered the ``rescue’’ operation with their sanction. I am delighted that your newspaper has not carried this fairy tale as narrated by the Commissioner of Police.

The point behind narrating these facts is to put the whole issue in perspective. There may be difference of opinion on what must happen in Sri Lanka or on whether the lawyers must go on strike at all. You will also appreciate if I say that we have journalists who indulge in corrupt practices or other such unfair practices. But then, do we then argue that the media professionals as a whole have utmost contempt to the morals and principles and hence hold a brief for the police to beat up all journalists once in a while? I do not have to recall instances of police high-handedness with journalists in the past and how the powers that be arm-twist pliant journalists and editors to fall in line. Do we appreciate all that or do we stand up and say No to such cheap tactics?

As I mentioned in the beginning, your paper has stood up to pressure and abuse of executive authority and that is why I decided to write this to you.

Yours Sincerely,
V.Krishna Ananth,
Advocate, Madras High Court,
Chennai

23 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is a very well written open letter to the editor. I read the letter with great interest in today's newspaper. Lawyers are entitled to have their own opinion on Sri Lankan Tamil issue. If you can write on State/civil society relationship on the Sri Lankan Tamil including the lawyers/police issue by taking recourse to the events that has unfolded in TN ever since the war broke out in Sri Lanka then it will be much more effective.

5:38 AM  
Blogger V. Krishna Ananth said...

Thanks. I do agree that the state/civil society relationship needs to be written about. But I am not too sure if I can do it; for two reasons. One is that I am not too confident on that subject as such and the other being my schedule does not give me the time to reflect seriously.
Why don't you do it?

6:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The lawyers have no business to boycott courts as they have been doing in Tamil Nadu at the cost of the litigants and also to delaying the much delayed justice process.

Lawyers if they are really concenred should come out and contest elections and make their voice felt in Parliament and Legislatures.

Mr. V. Krishna Ananth should first condemn all the lawyers who attacked Dr. Subramanian Swamy in Court. He should on behalf of all right thinking people of the decent and democratic society appear in the proceedings and ensure that the guilty are punished.

Lawyers have no business to resort to criminal behaviour in the court room in front of the judges.

Mr. Krishna Ananth please ensure that the black sheep are weeded out and some sense of responsibility comes to their head.

The nation requires leaders like Dr. Subramaniam Swamy who are honest, frank and fearless.

10:20 AM  
Anonymous rediffmail said...

The lawyers have no business to boycott courts as they have been doing in Tamil Nadu at the cost of the litigants and also to delaying the much delayed justice process.

Lawyers if they are really concenred should come out and contest elections and make their voice felt in Parliament and Legislatures.

Mr. V. Krishna Ananth should first condemn all the lawyers who attacked Dr. Subramanian Swamy in Court. He should on behalf of all right thinking people of the decent and democratic society appear in the proceedings and ensure that the guilty are punished.

Lawyers have no business to resort to criminal behaviour in the court room in front of the judges.

Mr. Krishna Ananth please ensure that the black sheep are weeded out and some sense of responsibility comes to their head.

The nation requires leaders like Dr. Subramaniam Swamy who are honest, frank and fearless.

10:22 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anonymous - 1: Thanks Mr. Krishna Ananth for suggesting me to write on state/civil society relationship. I only thought that the present tussle between police and lawyers is part of a larger issue between state/civil society on Sri Lankan Tamil issue and hence requested you to write. I understand your concerns.

@ Anonymous 2 & rediffmail: Dr. Subramanian Swamy must first learn to condemn the nature of Sri Lankan state instead of pressing the central government of India to help the Srilankan government. The Sri Lankan state is a rightist state that systematically carry out anti-Tamil policies plus neo-liberal economic policies. The Sinhala people themselves are suffering under the tyrannical policies of Sri Lankan state. It is pathetic that Indian political establishment including CPM is not highlighting this rightist nature of Sri Lankan and vehemently condemning it.
True, the lawyers should not have resorted to violence in court room but that should not warrant the police to go on rampage against legal community in the premises of Madras High Court. I see the role of executive in the series of events that has unfolded since 19th Feb. The Indian state is also resorting to violence through police force.

This is an attack on civil society and not just legal community.

7:13 PM  
Blogger V. Krishna Ananth said...

Let me make it clear: I am not too sure as to whether the lawyers must desist from strikes because I am among those who stands up for the right to strike by the workers, peasants and the students. It is, in my view, a status quoist position to call strikes as disruptive and the thing is that such people who condemn strikes are essentially made up of a servile mind.

As for Subramanian Swamy and the statement that the nation needs such leaders, let me make it clear: Calling him honest, frank and fearless (as one anonymous comment makes it) will require us to redefine what these expressions are!!!

And I am at a loss when this anonymous issues prescriptions to what I must do. I still feel that we have not moved into that fascist/totalitarian regime where someone else is alowed to decide what I must do!!! And the incident involving egg on Swamy's face, I state again that it was deplorable and condemn that. But let me remind the anonymous comenter that this is already a subject matter before the court for contempt.

7:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Krishna

Nowhere in your piece did you mention whether you were a witness to the events on the day in High Court. If the facts are based on hearsay, then again you have two sides for every coin. My facts (which are quite contradictory) are as good as yours.

You say: The lawyers have been on a course of boycott of courts demanding the intervention by the Union Government...
- No. ONLY A SECTION was demanding the intervention and not the entire legal fraternity.

You say: is it fair to insist that the lawyers shall not have their opinion on the issue.
- No. The lawyers have every right to their opinion as much as others do. Having said that I need to reiterate that I should not be "forced" to listen to and agree to your views through "democratic dissent" (boycott and stone throning). Why should the lawyers' views be treated preferentially than those of Thirumavalavan, Ramdoss and others?

You say: the act was condemned by lawyers of repute.
- likes of reputed lawyers R.K. Anand and I.U. Khan?

You say: In any case, there is no role for the police in this case where the act was committed inside the court hall and the judiciary is already taken up the case.
- I am not a lawyer and in this regard I donot know whether it is a law or a tradition (in India) for the judiciary to resolve the issues (pertaining to violation of individual liberty) inside the court halls. Whatever it is (whether it is a law or tradition), any special privileges or exemptions conferred upon the judiciary to be an executive within court halls will only set them above law in the eyes of others. Tomorrow you will have a lawyer murdering a litigant in the court hall and you might still be tempted to assume that courts will come to your rescue. It is one thing for the judiciary to be an arbitrator of executive decision of police entering into court halls to arrest the persons engaged in (and not suspected of) violating Swamy's liberty, it is entirely different for the judiciary to confer upon themselves the executive rights to deal with issues of rights violations within court premises. If it is a law, then law is an ass. It if it a tradition, then it is against commonsense. If one were to assume that the registrar did not grant permission to arrest the suspected lawyers, then what would happen in this case?
- In the part of the world where I am living, the police have every right to enter into any premise where the rights violations are suspected to have taken place. Why should lawyers be above commonsense?

You say: While the facts on this are yet to be established, ....I am sure that you will not blame the lawyers for having known the law and insisted that it be implemented. I am also sure that you will not describe this as an instance of the lawyers taking the law into their hands!
- While you say that the facts on this are yet to be established, you still expect the police to act upon this unverified fact to arrest Swamy immediately without any enquiry (that is considered to be fake according to an article published in India Today - http://indiatoday.intoday.in/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&issueid=36&id=30515&Itemid=1&sectionid=19&completeview=1). According to a news report published in The Hindu on PCR Acts
(http://www.hindu.com/2008/04/21/stories/2008042154660500.htm), they all call for immediate investigation and there is no mention of immediate arrest.

You say: And within minutes, the Swift Action Group personnel as well as many senior police officers.
- But you did not refer to the arguments that led to the lawyers preventing the police from carrying out their duties (of arresting the wanted lawyers) and their subsequent stone throwing and mob (lawyers) violence. Every dog has its own day. The lawyers' mob behaviour came to an end when the police got mobilised and retaliated. While the lawyers pelted stones at the police without getting anyone's permission, why do you expect the police to get anyone's permission to punish the lawless rioters.

You say: the lathis they carried were not the same as the ones they carry on ceremonial occasions; they also put them to liberal use.
- they were not there to instill fear with ceremonial lathis nor were they there to restrain the mobs. They were there to punish the mob for its senseless violence. Mob is a mob whether it is mob in white coat or black coat. Why do you expect the police to be gentle in their approach when the police themselves are not gentle. You should be happy that the TN police is still incapable to carry the large lathis that the Jat policemen carry in Vasant Vihar police station outside JNU.

You say: did not spare Justice Arumughaperumal Adityan in the process.
- very unfortunate to see that in photos. However, in that photo, I did not see a Justice. All I could see was a member of a legal fraternity with a streak of ruffianism.

You say: As for the police station in the premises being set on fire
- While you expect us to believe (by implying) the lawyers' story regarding the use of Protection of Civil Rights Act against Swamy, you bring in the logic of referring to the capability of the lawyers to set the police station on fire. If the lawyers had the capability to pelt stone at cops, why should their capability be any different in setting the station on fire.

You say: There is now the story of one DySP having been held captive inside... Does this story sound convincing to you?
- I can understand why it is very convincing for you. If you are already convinced that it was a fairy tale to assume that the lawyers were capable of setting the station on fire, you are only going to follow the same logic in assuming that they equally incapable of keeping an officer captive.

You say: the Commissioner of Police could have gone up to the Acting Chief Justice or the Registrar General to tell them the story and then ordered the ``rescue’’ operation with their sanction.
- This is a fairy tale to expect the enraged cops to get the "sanction" to rescue their officer held captive by the lawless mob inside court premise.

Krishna: In India, the country is always held to ransom by students, police, lawyers, politicians, religious groups, trade unions, farmers, bankers, and the list goes on and on. I have as much contempt for police as I have for other institutions in India (be it legislative, executive and judiciary). All these institutions behave as if they are their own fiefdoms. The police high-handedness is a norm in India and what happened in Chennai is a follow up of this norm and this is not an exception. Please donot expect me to feel sorry for the lawyers because they had to be at the receiving end of the cops this time. If you were a victim of police assault, I feel sorry for you (as a fellow JNUite, a principled ex-student activitist, a genuine ex-journalist and a sincere lawyer) not certainly as a member of a legal fraternity out to defend its rights. My interaction with the legal fraternity in India does not make me to feel sorry for them. If one were to believe the SC ruling on Thursday, it only reinforces my portrayal of judiciary in India as an usurping monster and I donot have any sympathy for this monster. If this monster had to be shown its place by the place, let it be so.

Comrade

4:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you believe the lawyers are saints in the High Court incident, then watch this video and make your own judegement.

Is Police-lawyer Clash Justified?

http://mefeedia.com/entry/is-police-lawyer-clash-justified/14594375

5:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't why the hell all the intellectuals, media go about making this as an issue between police and judiciary! Just because the police brutality happened within the premises of Madras High Court does not mean that it is an assault on judiciary. ONE SHOULD SEE THIS INCIDENT AS A SYSTEMATIC ASSAULT OF INDIAN STATE ON CIVIL SOCIETY. POLICE IS AN INSTRUMENT OF STATE.
The legal community in TN is a most politicized segment in civil society. The Indian state has been monitoring the developments taking place in TN ever since the Sri Lankan army started making in roads in Tamil speaking regions.
The Indian state will remain calm as long as individuals in TN die of self-immolation and conduct peaceful demonstrations. After all the politicians come and throw 5 lakhs of rupees for the victim of self-immolation. But when individuals take to violence, the Indian state will not be a mute spectator.
I see the Lawyers who assaulted Subramanian Swamy within court room as a ordinary individuals in civil society whose sentiments are for the suffering Tamils in Sri Lanka.
If Indian intellectuals, media go about making this issue as a tussle between judiciary and police, they are trying to hide pumpkin in the heap of rice!
It should be seen as a systematic assault of Indian state on civil society. This also shows the rotten nature of Indian politics.
The champions of Indian democracy must spit at Indian parliament for not taking the sentiments of the people of Tamilnadu into consideration.

6:39 PM  
Blogger V. Krishna Ananth said...

There is this anonymous post by someone who certainly knows me. And I gather he/she is not in India any longer. Am just curious to know who that person is... and will certainly react/reply to all the questions.

I was there in the court premises during the rampage.

8:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There are so many anonymous comments written here and that I request you to please sort out the identity based on content and not to hurry up in putting every anonymous in a single basket. The third comment from above seem to be a rightist anonymous. Me the anonymous first and ninth post from above. The 7th post from above appear to be a secular anonymous. I request the author of the blog not to hurry with conclusions about the innumerable anonymous here.

9:02 PM  
Anonymous Comrade said...

Sorry about this 'anonymous' confusion. Krishna refers to me (I signed as 'comrade') in his response.

Comrade

2:03 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't know why the author of this blog is curious to know the identity of those who comment here. While the issue is important it is approriate if the issue is addressed than pondering over the identity of those who commented. The comments are not going to bring any disrepute for the author of this blog or for that matter he is going to stop the blog! Let us focus on the issue and address it first!

2:23 AM  
Blogger V. Krishna Ananth said...

I meant the comrade when I said I was eager to know him/her because we seem to know each other. In addition, I thought the comment raised some issues that need to be answered/responded/considered.

In any case, I am at a loss over the fact that someone here is keen on commenting but not wanting to come out and say hey... it's me.

I have no issues about that and let it be that way as long as I see some basis for the criticism/appreciation in the comment. Blogging, for me, is just a past time and not the only activity. In any case, most of the posts in my blog are published in one newspaper or another. This is just a bouncing board and also a place where I keep my writings stored. I hope that answers one of the anonymous commenters who thinks it is his/her right to stay ananymous!!!

6:49 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you. You indeed answered my question. I find to read all the newspapers difficult everyday and in that sense your blog provides a window to your publications elsewhere. You seem to be very serious in your responses. A smile from you will bring cheers to the readers like us :)

8:19 AM  
Anonymous Comrade said...

There is an interesting editorial (very rare though) in The Hindu today on SC views on High Court incident (http://www.hindu.com/2009/02/28/stories/2009022854661000.htm). This is what precisely I am trying to refer to. It is indeed strange for the SC to ask the TN government to deposit Rs.20 lakhs for the treatment of injured lawyers. Whose side the SC is taking here and why? How many times did you hear in the past the SC taking suo motto of various police excesses and making similar demands to deposit money for the treatment of injured.

What we are seeing time and again is that these lawless lawyers are often getting nominated to the SC through their political links as SC judges and we are told to bow to these "eminent judges".
You can not even criticise these semi-literates without inviting contempt proceedings against you. Shame on the judiciary that we have contempt laws in India.

No wonder law is an ass in India.

Comrade

1:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Now let me ask a simple question to you Mr. Comrade and to the author of this blog. How would you both interpreted this assault by police on lawyers had it happened outside the court premises? How would you both interpreted the incident of the assault on Subramanian Swamy had it happened at Anna Salai, Mount Road? For me the entire debate has hijacked the central issue, i.e., the Indian state's assault on civil society by using the police force which is but an instrument of state. Let me issue a sound of warning - if the violence tomorrow take place outside Court premises on the Sri Lankan issue, the police will repeat what it did within high court. So I kindly request both of you to see this incident with broad vision than muddling it up as a fight between police and judiciary.

7:33 AM  
Blogger V. Krishna Ananth said...

Dear ``comrade''

I do not agree with your perception that we should condemn the Supreme Court for having taken a pro-active position on the assault against the lawyers and the statement you made about the SC not having done so in any instance involving others. Please do not gloss over such instances where the court had ordered that foodgrains be distributed to the starving poor as recently as a few years ago. I, for one, do not believe that the law is an ass and believe in using the law and the constitution to the hilt in the quest for an egalitarian society.

You are free to believe what you do but please do not thrust that on me. And while there is corruption in the judiciary, my experience is that all is not lost. And that is the reason why I stay where I am. Let me also add that there are bad elements in every profession. Do you mean to say that the academia is full of angels? Or the media?

As for The Hindu, I shall reserve my comments to some other occasion. For now, I see a consistent pattern in The Hindu's coverage of Nandigram, Tibet, Navin Chawla, Tamils in Sri Lanka and the High Court violence.

11:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Using the law and constitution, that defend right to property, to build a egalitarian society is a most "status quo" position one can take.

12:32 AM  
Blogger Communist said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

10:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

With Justice B.N. Srikrishna claming the obvious (that the hooligans started the violence in the High Court), does the author of this blog have anything to say about? Is he planning to go on 'fast unto death' (political style) or self-immolate to protect the territory of these hooligans.

2:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The author will neither go on fast nor immolate but keep writing magna cartas in support of hooligans..

12:35 AM  
Blogger A Doosra Perspective said...

Lawyers are lawbreakers. They don't deserve any sympathy and mercy of the common man.It is time we need to get rid of goons from the lawyer's faternity.

4:11 AM  

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