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Lawyer-Delhi Police row: is it tough to empathise with cops due to their poor image?

Delhi Police officers and lawyers in the capital have been locked in a bitter scuffle since a violent clash broke out Saturday outside the Tis Hazari Court.

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Delhi Police officers and lawyers in the capital have been locked in a bitter scuffle since a violent clash broke out Saturday outside the Tis Hazari Court. A police officer was attacked Monday by a group of lawyers outside the Saket Court. Lawyers and Delhi police officers have both organised protests.

ThePrint asks: Lawyer-Delhi Police row: is it tough to empathise with cops due to their poor image?

Both lawyers and policemen took law into their own hands, but only police have been so far punished

Prakash Singh
Former Police Officer

The problem has to be dealt with impartially based on what actually transpired between the Delhi Police officers and the lawyers. If you are factoring in ‘poor image’, then even the media is known for its nefarious activities. So, why should one empathise with the media, or for that matter with politicians who are involved in all sorts of questionable things? Beating someone up is not the solution.

In this Delhi Police-lawyers tussle, I don’t think an inquiry has been held so far. It’s difficult to say which faction transgressed the limits of law more. But both the lawyers and the police officers nonetheless took law into their own hands to some extent.

The important point is that policemen have been punished, but no action has been taken against the lawyers. The manner in which the judiciary has stepped in has perplexed me. The decision to suspend an assistant sub-inspector should’ve been left to the Delhi Police Commissioner, the lieutenant-governor of Delhi, or the Home Ministry.

News reports suggest that no coercive action has been taken against lawyers. Everyone has seen how the lawyers misbehaved, not to say that the policemen didn’t. Lawyers
are bound to show greater sensitivity because they are highly educated. They can’t take law into their own hands. This is unacceptable.

Police are not well-trained and don’t follow prescribed procedures. Their image has got diminished

Ishkaran Bhandari

The police are responsible for safeguarding law, but they have to do it in a manner in which they also comply with the rule of law. This entire controversy erupted due to an alleged parking dispute where they lugged a lawyer to a lock-up and thrashed him. Even if we assume that a lawyer’s car was parked wrongly, the police officers should’ve followed proper procedures while dealing with the lawyers.

Police thrashing people is the reason why there are so many custodial deaths. Instead of registering an FIR, they chose to fire at the lawyers during the altercation. One lawyer is now in the ICU. This incident happened despite a district judge and senior judicial officers being present at the site. The police didn’t allow the judge to visit the lock-up to take charge of the situation. There are videos on social media of policemen attacking parked vehicles of lawyers.

The police forces are not well-trained and don’t follow the prescribed procedures. They frequently use force, and third-degree methods of questioning in lock-ups. People have lost faith in the police.

The chief justice of the Delhi High Court has ordered the transfer of the Special Commissioner and the Additional DCP, along with the suspension of two police officers. Now, a judicial commission has been set up headed by a retired High Court judge.

Having been lathicharged during protests, I have firsthand knowledge of what police can do

Umar Khalid
Activist and former JNU student

Empathy must be practiced by taking into account basic principles of humanity. The incidents that unfolded outside the Saket Court and Tis Hazari Court are terrible.

Having been part of protests, and brutally lathicharged, I have firsthand knowledge about the extent to which the police can go when using force. Jawans on the road, unfortunately, take the heat for the decision taken by those in the establishment. The kind of violence that has been meted out to them, the response of the system, and the complete lack of sympathy are reflective of how little jawans matter to those in power.

This culture isn’t restricted to just New Delhi. The Uttar Pradesh Police forces are known for carrying out fake encounters. Subhodh Kumar Singh was killed in Bulandshahr because he was an upright policeman. There is a complete collapse of the law and order situation in the capital and elsewhere.

The Home Ministry and high-level government officials have not only forgotten their responsibility but have also created a justice system based on vigilantism.

The police in the country are stuck in a catch-22 situation. I’m not justifying the actions of police officers, because I have seen their actions up-close. However, if people start taking law into their own hands, then what we see is the start of another form of vigilantism.

Also read: Congress questions Amit Shah’s silence on police taking to streets after clash with lawyers

The lumpenisation of a section of Delhi lawyers is a matter of very serious concern

Kavita Srivastava
National Secretary, PUCL

The public image of both the Delhi Police and the lawyers is at the lowest right now.

As an activist, I remember the number of occasions during which we saw aggression and violence and the use of unbridled power by the Delhi Police. At the end of the day, it was only a parking issue, which could have been resolved and not brought to this flash point. We believe that the Delhi Police initiated the aggression.

Having said that, I feel the lumpenisation of a section of Delhi lawyers, who have become the self-appointed voice of all lawyers, is a matter of very serious concern. After all, there weren’t just lawyers who beat up Kanhaiya Kumar when he was produced in the Patiala House court in 2016. Some of them were even office-bearers of the BJP. The kind of messages that a section of Delhi lawyers is still posting on social media means that they are seeking revenge from the Delhi Police.

It is unfortunate that the police and the lawyers took the law into their own hands.

We hope that the judicial commission set up to examine the whole incident, including the condemnable firing by the police and torching of vehicles by lawyers, will do its job.

Stringent action should be taken against the police personnel involved in the rumpus. Additionally, the Bar Association of India should put in place stricter code for lawyers and take action against those involved.

Views expressed are personal.

Root cause of the problem is heavy workload on India police, even doing duties which they shouldn’t

Vappala Balachandran
Author of ‘Keeping India Safe: The Dilemma of Internal Security’

Police in most countries tend to face an image issue since they are the coercive arm of the government. They are also the direct interface between the government and the ordinary people who might be dissatisfied with the latter’s policies.  Even the legendary British “Bobby”, as what the police forces there are called, have lost their sheen as the UK’s The Spectator reported in 2014.

The Delhi Police, which works directly under the central government, has never enjoyed a good reputation.

Similar incidents have happened earlier, such as the 1988 episode when the Delhi Police had to use force on lawyers. But in this 2 November brawl, the immediate provocations for the police demonstrations were the Delhi High Court order on not taking coercive action against the lawyers even as TV news channels repeatedly showed visuals of an alleged lawyer beating up a policeman.

However, the root of the problem is the heavy workload on the police forces in India. They are even asked to handle many duties that are not considered responsibilities of the police in other countries. Unless this is addressed, there is no hope for better policing in our country.

Video of a policeman being beaten up and not retaliating has turned the tide in police’s favour

Ananya Bhardwaj
Senior assistant editor, ThePrint

The marred reputation of the police in India is of their own making.

Considering the police apathy— demanding bribes, not registering complaints, trigger-happy policemen gunning down innocents, instances of police atrocities resulting in custodial deaths — it indeed becomes difficult to empathise with them.

In the current situation, however, the police were at the receiving end of lawyers’ anger. Police asking for security is something that has never been seen before.

The video of a police officer being beaten up by a lawyer and yet exercising complete restraint, seems to have turned the tide in their favour.

This incident has brought forth the other side, a more humane side of a police officer, who did not react violently despite being provoked. He represented a disciplined police force.

These incidents of assault on policemen have not only triggered an unprecedented protest by police officers demanding security for themselves, a police union, and a strong leadership that would take a stand for them, but have also stoked a larger debate about the need for stronger police reforms.

A police officer in uniform may still be perceived as a villain by many, but people might turn a little sympathetic towards the police once they hear what they have to go through on a daily basis.

Also read: Bar Council asks lawyers to identify those ‘indulging in hooliganism’

By Taran Deol, journalist at ThePrint

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  1. What can worse for a society supposed to be having rule of law than to see lawyers taking law into their own hands? The old perception of judiciary as a sanctum sanctorum of justice is no more there. Today, it is truly said that ‘we do not get justice from our courts, what we get from the court is called justice’.

  2. The way police harass, threaten and extort money and favours from common people, it is high time they get a taste of their own medicine. The police still have a colinial mentality and it is hard to empathise with them unless this changes.

  3. As a dove and a pacifist, one recoils with horror while reading about what happens in police lockups. Sometimes also on the streets. However, all that is the subject matter of another debate. Public servants on duty, policemen in uniform most visibly so, are the symbols of state power. Attack them with impunity and the aura / majesty of government are gone. 2.Lawyers are a learned profession, officers of the Court. The video clip one has seen does them no credit. They should be arrested and prosecuted. The Bar Council too should defrock them. 3. Delhi has been denied full statehood on the – specious – ground that Police is too important a subject to be entrusted to the state government. Seeing some recent incidents, the state government could hardly have done worse.

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