Taking a dim view of the unprecedented 11-hour protests on Tuesday by police outside their headquarters in central Delhi against the alleged assault on members of the force by lawyers after a violent clash over the weekend, the Bar Council of India (BCI) on Wednesday said it was the ‘darkest day in the history of Independent India’.
“In our view it was the darkest day in the history of Independent India. Certainly it seems to be a politically managed move and it is very sad,” a statement by the BCI said.
The allegation of the protest being ‘politically managed’ comes a day after Delhi’s ruling Aam Aadmi Party accused the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of converting the Delhi Police into a “political entity” that ignores its basic duty of maintaining law and order. “Delhi Police has been converted into political entity and works like an armed wing of the BJP,” AAP spokesperson Saurabh Bhardwaj said.
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Wearing black armbands and waving placards, the policemen and women on Tuesday marched to their HQ, located in the Income Tax Office (ITO) area in central Delhi, where the number of protesters eventually swelled to about 3,000. The protest was called off after repeated assurances by top officials, including police commissioner Amulya Patnaik, that their key demands related to the assault by lawyers were being met.
The police protest came three days after a dispute over a lawyer parking his car near the police lock-up in Tis Hazari court complex in north Delhi turned into a violent clash between the police and lawyers. On Monday, lawyers chased and attacked policemen, journalists and civilians in and around the district courts in south Delhi’s Saket. A video showed lawyers slapping and elbowing a policeman and vandalising police property.
Seething resentment in the police ranks over action taken against their men, while the lawyers were spared, was the trigger for Tuesday’s protest. On Sunday, the Delhi high court took up Saturday’s clash, and ordered the transfer of two senior police officers, the suspension of two other officers and compensation to the injured lawyers
The BCI, which had on Tuesday condemned the Saket court incident asking associations to identify the lawyers responsible for it, changed tack on Wednesday and accused the police of aggravating the situation. “We tried to defuse the situation and had asked Bar association of Delhi to recall the strike. But, after seeing yesterday’s conduct of the police personnel… BCI cannot sit tight,” the statement said.
Calling the protest ‘well planned’ the BCI said it was meant to threaten not only the lawyers but also the government and judiciary. The Council demanded a high level committee to investigate who was involved in what they called an ‘illegal protest of police’
The BCI also demanded arrest of the policemen responsible for the Tis Hazari incident, in which 21 policemen and eight lawyers were injured. Failing which, lawyers will hold peaceful protests all across the city.
The parent body of all lawyers’ association appealed to them to hold off the ongoing strike for 10 days and resume work. “If culprits are not arrested by then, we shall decide the future course of action,” said the statement signed by Bar Council chairman Mannan Kumar Mishra and co-chairman Ved Prakash Sharma.