A shameful breakdown

Lawyers and police are expected to work in harmony, being two important pillars of the justice system. The ugly showdown between the two in the national capital of Delhi has exposed them to public ridicule and scorn, and more worryingly a loss of faith in these institutions. The clashes that began during the weekend over a vehicle parking issue went out of control when over 1,000 policemen staged an unprecedented 11-hour protest, in utter disregard of their service rules. The flashpoint was an attack by lawyers in which about 20 policemen were injured, followed by an assault on an officer, the video of which went viral. While the Delhi High Court stepped in to shield the accused lawyers from any coercive action by the police and even transferred two policemen and suspended two others, the police top brass woefully failed in protecting the men in uniform. The anger of the protesting policemen was directed more at their own bosses, who remained mute spectators of the sordid drama, than at the lawyers. The 11-hour police protest points to the failure of not just the police top brass, but also of Home Minister Amit Shah, under whom Delhi Police functions and whose timely intervention could have prevented the issue from snowballing.

 The fact that policemen, who themselves are often accused of highhandedness, are apprehensive of entering court complexes in uniform for fear of being assaulted only indicates the havoc wreaked by advocates. It is a common complaint that advocates, who are defenders of the law, often become law unto themselves and demand immunity as a matter of right even when they are in the wrong, leading to skirmishes with the police. On the other hand, the advocates, who are continuing their protest, have refused to budge until action is initiated against the policemen who fired on them. The police claim that they were forced to fire in the air in self-defence after advocates tried to barge into a cell in which undertrials were being held. Only an impartial inquiry will reveal who was at fault. It should be ensured that the guilty do not go unpunished.

 Being the custodians of law, it is incumbent upon both the lawyers and police to act reasonably and responsibly as neither of them is above the law. It is a sad day when the law is broken by those charged with upholding it. The police and lawyers play an equal role in the administration of justice and it is important that the trust between them is restored. That can happen only when they have mutual respect for each other. 

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