Court orders judicial probe into Chennai police-lawyers clash

NEW DELHI - The Supreme Court Thursday ordered a judicial probe by a panel headed by former judge, Justice B.N. Shrikrishna, into alleged police excesses against striking Tamil Nadu lawyers earlier this month

A bench of Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan also ordered the transfer of four senior police officers of Chennai, purportedly for allowing police to enter the Madras High Court premises and clashing with the striking lawyers after chasing them right into the courtrooms on Feb 19.

The police officers ordered to be transferred are Chennai Joint Commissioner of Police Sandeep Rai Rathore and three deputy commissioners of police, Sarenjan, Prem Anand Sinha and Paneer Selvam.

The court ordered the transfer saying that there should be ‘no presumption of any guilt against them’.

The bench, which also included Justices P. Sathasivam and J.M. Panchal, also rebuked the lawyers for their failure in ‘upholding the sanctity of the judiciary’ and said it expected them to return to work at the earliest.

The court, however, did not issue any order to the striking advocates to resume work.

‘The lawyers should also respect the sanctity of the (court) premises. They should not have shouted slogans and pelted stones and run inside the courtrooms. They should also uphold the sanctity of the judiciary,’ said the bench after Solicitor General Goolam E. Vahanvati read out from a state government report, detailing the sequence of events preceding the clash.

The bench wanted the judicial panel to submit its report on the possible punishments to be meted out to the erring police officers within a week.

It ruled out the revival of the police station burnt by the agitating lawyers on Feb 19 evening and ordered the presence of only unarmed policemen inside the court premises for security purposes.

The clash had taken place last week after Janata Party president Subramanian Swamy was assaulted by lawyers inside a courtroom of the high court for appearing in a personal matter there. He had lodged a criminal case against the lawyers and sought their arrest. The clash took place as the police tried to arrest lawyers.

The bench also approved of a local panel headed by the Madras High Court registrar general, constituted to assess the damages to private vehicles and court buildings.

The solicitor general said the state was ready to offer Rs.2 million to meet the cost of reconstruction of the court premises and compensation to injured lawyers.


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