Delhi police return to work but lawyers continue protest

As the smog covering New Delhi for days began to lift on Tuesday, India’s capital witnessed an unprecedented protest by thousands of cops in front of the police commissioner’s office, above.

Chanting slogans and holding placards seeking justice and protection, they demanded action against some lawyers who they claimed attacked their colleagues in the premises of Tis Hazari court on Saturday and outside Saket District Court on Monday.

They called off Tuesday’s 11-hour sit-in only after senior officers gave assurance to address their grievances.

Special Commissioner of Police (Crime) Satish Golcha announced an ex gratia payment of $353 to the police personnel injured in the attacks.

Golcha said a review petition would be filed against Sunday’s Delhi High Court order that suspended a police officer and transferred two others pending inquiry.

A day later, Delhi police suffered a setback as the court dismissed their application for allowing them to register cases against lawyers involved in the Tis Hazari violence.

In a setback to the union government too, the court declined its request to clarify on its Sunday order restraining the Delhi police from arresting lawyers, saying it is self-explanatory.

The government wanted to know whether the court order was confined to the Tis Hazari clashes or applicable to subsequent attacks like the one in Saket.

Golcha also assured the protesting cops that no action would be taken against them for breaking the service rules by taking to the streets.

Delhi police and lawyers, two primary institutions expected to coordinate well in maintaining law and order, are instead blaming each other for the ugly incidents that began to unfold in the capital from Saturday. To back their claim, they are showing diametrically opposite versions of video footages captured on CCTV cameras installed near the scenes of clashes.

In a rare video on the clashes that broke out in Tis Hazri Court’s premises, dozens of lawyers barge into the police lock-up, surround four officers and beat them blue. As they leave, one cop lies motionless on the floor as if dead. None of the lawyers show any concern for him.

In a video footage on the attack outside Saket court aired by several TV stations, a group of men stop a cop in uniform going to office on a bike. One of them approaches the officer and hits him hard on the back with his elbow and slaps him twice in the face.

As the cop tries to escape the scene, the attacker hurls a helmet at him from behind. It misses the man in khaki, hits the rear registration plate of the bike and rolls across the road.

Reports say the helmet belonged to the cop and the “cowardly” assault started after the attacker forcibly removed it from his victim.

Lawyers have rubbished these videos. They say other visuals tell a different story.

It is not yet clear how the clashes in Tis Hazari court premises started and escalated. Ground reports suggest it all began with a parking row between a lawyer and a police officer.

The incident would have gone unnoticed has someone not spread a rumour that the lawyer was dragged to the police lockup in the court premises and thrashed.

Nearly 200 lawyers had assembled in the court premises on Saturday because of an election to pick office-bearers for their association.

On hearing the rumours, dozens of them barged into the police lockup and assaulted the few cops present there.  

Lawyers allege one officer shot and injured their colleague. According to them, police could have averted the clashes by seizing the lawyer’s vehicle and filing a case instead of “beating” him.

Police say they were heavily outnumbered by lawyers and the officer fired in the air in self-defence.

By storming the police lockup, the lawyers could have helped scores of under-trial prisoners escape custody. Sensing the danger, the officer acted. Amid the melee, the warning shot might have accidentally hit and injured the lawyer, according to them. 

In the meantime, the Bar Council of India (BCI) called the strike by Delhi police politically motivated and the darkest day in the history of independence. It wanted all officers found guilty to be arrested within a week.

While cops returned to work after a day of protests, lawyers staged sit-ins before courts in Delhi. They welcomed the high court’s ruling to maintain status quo on its Sunday’s order.