Justice B.N. Srikrishna, retired Supreme Court judge, has blamed lawyers for behaving as “hooligans and miscreants” and provoking the police to resort to a lathicharge on the Madras High Court premises on February 19.
In his interim report submitted to a three-judge Bench headed by Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan, Justice Srikrishna said: “In my view, the circumstances facing the police on the fateful day without doubt justified quelling the unruly and rioting mob of lawyers by use of force, but the police went beyond what was permissible use of force.”
The incidents that transpired over the last month or so “make it clear that the lawyers seemed to be under the impression that, because they are officers of the court, they are immune from the process of law and that they could get away with any unlawful act without being answerable to the law enforcing agency. It is most unfortunate that the soft policy adopted by the Acting Chief Justice of the Madras High Court and its administration sent out clearly a wrong message that encouraged and emboldened the lawyers into becoming lawbreakers,” the report said.
‘The Hindu’ in its editorial welcomed the Justice Srikrishna report.
By honestly placing in context the violent incidents involving the police and the lawyers in the Madras High Court on February 19, Justice B.N. Srikrishna provided the Supreme Court with the necessary perspective to deal with a delicate situation. Faced with a group of agitating lawyers who wanted to project the disproportionate use of force by the police against lawyers indulging in violence as an executive vs judiciary ‘constitutional’ issue, the Supreme Court needed to know the whole truth. In his interim report, Justice Srikrishna did his best to present just that. While detailing the background of the ugly events, he pointed to the meetings and demonstrations inside the premises of the High Court from November 2008 by lawyers owing allegiance to the cause of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. The “soft policy” adopted by the Acting Chief Justice and the administration of the Madras High Court, he noted, emboldened lawyers to become law-breakers. In the days leading to the February 19 incidents, sections among them indulged in activities that amounted to criminal offences — on the pretext of taking up the Sri Lankan issue.
Many thought that the Courts and its committee will side with the lawyers and blame only the Police and the Government. Justice Srikrishna by rightly pointing out that lawyers were primarily to be blamed showed that nobody is above law,even the lawyers.