Justice Srikrishna to probe lawyers-police clash in Madras HC
New Delhi (PTI): The Supreme Court on Thursday appointed a committee headed by retired Supreme Court judge B N Srikrishna to hold inquiry into the clashes between lawyers and police in the Madras High Court on February 19 in which several advocates and a judge were injured.
It said that Justice Srikrishna, who had probed the 1993 Mumbai riots, will be assisted by two CBI officers from the agency's Chennai office to probe sequence of the events leading to the clash in which several lawyers and a judge were injured and properties of the High Court and vehicles of lawyers were damaged.
The bench made it clear that five senior police officers whose names have cropped up in connection with the incident will be transferred to facilitate the free and fair inquiry.
The Court was informed that Ramasubramanian, Jt Commissioner of Police, was already transferred and another police officer of his rank Sandeep Rai Rathore and three DCPs -- Sarangan, Prem Anand Sinha and Paneer Selvam -- will be immediately shifted.
The fate of Chennai Police Commissioner K Radhakrishnan along with that of T Rajendran (Additional DCP) and A K Vishwanathan (Additional CP) will be decided after the submission of the report of the Srikrishna Committee.
However, the apex court, which acceded to most of the demands of the Tamil Nadu lawyers, disapproved their conduct in holding meetings and raising of slogans inside the court complex and asked them to call off their strike at the earliest in the interest of the litigants who have been the worst sufferer.
"Large number of litigants are the worst sufferer of the strike. This is very sad," a bench comprising Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan and Justices P Sathasivan and J M Panchal said, adding that "there should not be any disturbance in the court proceedings and there should not be any slogan shouting."
The bench, which posted the next hearing to March 3, expressed the hope that since the Committee has been constituted according to their wish, the lawyers will maintain the decorum and discipline and their associations would withdraw the strike which has paralysed the work of the courts since January 29.
However, the President of the Madras High Court Bar Association (MHCBA) Paul Kanakraj, expressed his constraint in assuring the apex court that the strike will be withdrawn immediately, saying it will be decided only after holding General Body Meeting of the MHCBA in Chennai.
The bench, which scrapped the committee set up by the Tamil Nadu government to probe the clash, asked the newly constituted Committee to "consider immediate actions against the police officers who allowed the entry of police into the High Court" resulting in the alleged police excesses and to submit its interim report within two weeks.
The apex court, which had questioned the existence of the police station inside the High Court complex, was told by Solicitor General G E Vahanvati that it was set up under the directions of the High Court in 2007.
However, the bench said the police station which was damaged in the fire would not be revived without its order and "no armed policemen will enter the court premises without the permission of the Chief Justice of the High Court".
The apex court said other committees set up to assess the damage to properties of the High Court and vehicles of the lawyers will continue. Similarly, the Committee which was looking into medical issue for the injured will also function.
Vahanvati, appearing for the state government, narrated the sequence of events which led to the violence and accepted there were some police excesses. But he said there was also the need to identify the advocates who took law into their hands and indulged in stone pelting.
The policemen entered the court hall while chasing the lawyers who were pelting stones on them, he claimed.
However, his submission was objected by Tamil Nadu lawyers who blamed the police for the incident and even went to the extent of saying it was the cops who set the police station on fire.
The bench moderated the arguments and said "many of the allegations may be disputed by the lawyers and we will not go into the adversial litigation at this stage".
An attempt was also made by a lawyer representing AIADMK leader D Jayakumar to politicise the matter by raising the issue of constitutional breakdown in the state but the bench said it was only concerned with the February 19 clash.