NEW DELHI - The Supreme Court Friday refused to take up the issue of striking lawyers of Tamil Nadu and transferred it to the Madras High Court.
A bench of Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan transferred the matter related to their strike to the high court for adjudication after a former apex court judge strongly indicted them for striking work in the state and clashing with police in the high court premises Feb 19.
The bench, which also included Justice P. Sathasvam and Justice J.M. Panchal, transferred the matter to the high court as Tamil Nadu lawyers vociferously objected to their indictment by Justice B.N. Srikrishna, who was asked Feb 26 to probe the alleged police excesses against striking lawyers.
After indicting layers in his interim report, Justice Srikrishna also quit the responsibility of conducting further probe.
In his report, Justice Srikrishna urged the Supreme Court to ‘take this opportunity to exercise its extraordinary constitutional powers and lay down sufficient guidelines for the behaviour of the lawyers within and without the court premises as the bar councils have not been acting as an effective regulatory body of their professional conduct’.
‘It would be ideal if the Advocates’ Act is amended to ensure a better disciplinary mechanism of the profession of law since it affects not only lawyers but also litigants, the administration of justice in the country and finally the rule of law itself,’ said Srikrishna in his report.
‘Until such time that appropriate legislation is made, it is desirable that the Supreme Court should formulate appropriate guidelines to be followed by lawyers and enforced by all courts,’ he said.
While blaming the striking lawyers squarely for their obstinate attitide, Justice Srikrishna also accused the Madras High Court judges of ’soft-peddling the issue, which has led to the present piquant situation’.
‘The lawyers appear to have been encouraged by te wrong signal sent out and seemed to think that they could do anything and get away within the court premises,’ said Justice Srikrishna in his report.
Indicting them for their clashes with police, the judge said, ‘Regretfully, far from being the upholders of the rule of law, the lawyers seemed to have behaved as hooligans and miscreants.
‘The incident that transpired over a 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 the law and that they could get away with any unlawful act without being answerable to the law enforcing agencies,’ said the judge.
‘It is most unfortunate that the soft policy adopted by the acting chief justice of the high court sent a wrong message that encouraged lawyers into becoming law-breakers,’ said Justice Srikrishna.
Though he absolved all senior police officers of the charges of committing excesses over the striking lawyers, he indicted constabulary for going overboard.
‘There is no doubt that the violence was started by the unruly mob of lawyers, some of whom were even dressed in robes and bands, but once the police got into action, there was no stopping them. It was as if the police force as a body went berserk,’ said Justice Srikrishna in his report to the apex court.
During the hearing on the matter, the apex court bench suggested that the issue be resolved by the intervention of the senior lawyers from the apex court. But it was rejected by the Madras High Court lawyers.
Accordingly, the bench referred the matter back to the high court to be looked into by a bench of three judges. Justice Srikrishna’s report too was referred to the high court.
Lawyers and police had clashed in the Madras High Court premises Feb 19 after Janata Party president Subramanian Swamy, manhandled and beaten by lawyers inside a courtroom, had lodged a criminal case against the advocates and sought their arrest. The clash took place as the police tried to arrest lawyers.