Punjab And Haryana HC Lawyers To Abstain From Work To Protest ‘Custodial Torture’ Of Lawyer

It is most shocking to learn that not even a month has lapsed when the police of Hapur had most mercilessly lathicharged more than 30 lawyers in front of their chambers without any provocation on the part of lawyers which has sent shivers down the spine of every person who saw those disturbing pictures and […]

It is most shocking to learn that not even a month has lapsed when the police of Hapur had most mercilessly lathicharged more than 30 lawyers in front of their chambers without any provocation on the part of lawyers which has sent shivers down the spine of every person who saw those disturbing pictures and the lawyers of Hapur suffered injuries with many lawyers suffering serious injuries also on August 29, 2023 and in less than a month we now get to read that the Punjab and Haryana High Court Bar Association has decided to observe a no-work day on 26 September, 2023 to protest the alleged custodial torture endured by a lawyer which he had to face at the hands of the Punjab Police’s Crime Investigation Agency (CIA). It is good to learn that the Executive Committee of the Punjab and Haryana High Court Bar Association has decided not to take it lying down and has firmly decided to stand in full solidarity with the lawyers who was subjected to custodial torture which has again sent shock waves all across the legal fraternity just like the lathicharge on lawyers of Hapur. The Executive Committee also in a statement minced just no words to state in no uncertain terms about the custodial torture that the lawyer was subjected to that, “It strongly condemns the torturous, inhumane and barbarous acts committed by the erring police officials of the District Police Sri Mukhtsar Sahib.”
To recapitulate, it was in last week that the lawyer had complained before the Chief Judicial Magistrate (CJM) at Sri Muktsar Sahib that he was beaten black and blue by the CIA Staff officials and also subjected to sexual abuse. The CJM in turn while taking a serious note of it then directed the Station House Office of Police Station in Sri Muktsar Sahib to initiate an investigation against the police officials after registering a case against them. It must be noted that in compliance with the CJM’s order, the police on night of September 25 registered a First Information Report (FIR) under Sections 377 (unnatural offences), 323 (hurt), 342 (wrongful confinement), 506 (criminal intimidation), and 149 (unlawful assembly) of the Indian Penal Code against six police officials. It must also be mentioned that the Senior Superintendent of Police Sri Muktsar Sahib also suspended two police officials.
It also cannot be lost on us that on the morning of September 26, 2023 itself, the Punjab and Haryana High Court Bar Association has also announced that it would file a petition before the High Court to transfer the investigation outside Punjab and for the suspension of the remaining police officials. It was also clarified by the High Court Bar Association that, “The future course of action will be intimated till then the work will remain suspended.” Meanwhile, it is also worth noting that the Bar Council of Punjab and Haryana also asked the asked the Bar Associations in Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh to “indefinitely abstain” from work with effect from Tuesday in solidarity with the lawyer, who is a Member of the Bar Association of Sri Muktsar Sahib.
We also need to note here that the Punjab and Haryana Bar Council has demanded the transfer of the investigation to an independent agency in Haryana or Chandigarh and for the cancellation of the FIR against the lawyer with immediate effect. In the fitness of things, the Punjab and Haryana Bar Council has also called for an FIR to be registered against the accused police officials and for the SSP at Sri Muktsar Sahib to be immediately suspended. No denying it.
It is also worth mentioning that the Punjab and Haryana High Court Bar Association while understanding the gravity of the situation had earlier promptly written to the Punjab Chief Minister with a similar demand for the suspension of the SSP of District Muktsar Sahib for allegedly not lodging an FIR against the erring police officers in the case of alleged custodial violence and sexual assault against a lawyer despite CJM’s order passed on September 23, 2023. What came as a bolt from the blue is that the letter most damningly further alleged that rather than taking as per law the appropriate action against the concerned officers, the victim-lawyer was being pressurized to withdraw his complaint and even his family members were being threatened on that account. The High Court Bar Association further underscored that upholding the safety and security of lawyers was essential for them to carry out their professional duties without fear.
It cannot be just glossed over that the letter by the Punjab and High Court Bar Association also found the incident as affecting not just the life and liberty of an individual but also “attacking the justice delivery system”. This begs the all-important question: How can the “justice delivery system” be allowed to be ever held to ransom by even the police? We are seeing how even in UP ever since the barbaric lathicharge by the police mercilessly lathicharging on armless lawyers of Hapur right in front of their chambers on August 29, 2023 and worst of all, the deadlock is still continuing even after nearly a month as the State Government has not cracked the whip on the erring police officials as demanded by lawyers of Hapur.
To top it all, the billion dollar question is: While we saw how Centre rushed through the Agniveer Yojana for Army soldiers due to which we saw many trains burnt and huge protests but why is it that we never see Centre never bringing such schemes for police personnel? The moot question here is: Why police reforms suggested by the Hon’ble Apex Court way back in 2006 in Prakash Singh vs Union of India case are still lying unimplemented even after more than 17 years? Centre can change penal laws, Centre can change rules for Army soldiers, Centre can change women laws, Centre can change Parliament of India, Centre can change the law on representation of women in Parliament and State Assemblies but why is it that Centre feels completely helpless when it comes to ushering in changes in police functioning and in holding police accountable strictly and punishing them most strictly for not lodging FIR, torturing any person etc?
All told, it is high time and both the State and the Centre must take urgent steps to implement the landmark recommendations of the Supreme Court in Prakash Singh case and take all such steps to ensure that the police is made more accountable and more responsive to the needs of the people! No doubt, even the Supreme Court must take suo motu action and seek accountability from Centre and States that why its landmark recommendations in Prakash Singh case are lying unimplemented for so many years in cold storage? If a child is slapped in school our Supreme Court reacts most promptly as is published in today’s newspaper mentioning about an incident where a teacher tells students to slap their 7-year-old classmate who is a Muslim in Muzaffarnagar for not remembering his time tables which cannot be ever justified and I applaud the Apex Court for raising its voice as discrimination on basis of religion or on any other basis cannot be ever justified under any circumstances!
But the most troubling question here is: Why no Judge in Supreme Court ever feels the pinch when lawyers were so brutally lathicharged by the police without any grave provocation with the women lawyers in Hapur also not being spared by police and the lawyers right in front of their chambers were mercilessly beaten after they had returned from a peaceful protest against the police for not lodging an FIR against a police cop who had a minor accident with a woman advocate Priyanka Tyagi and instead lodging FIR against Priyanka and her father with even Supreme Court Bar Association speaking out most vocally in favour of lawyers of Hapur and due to which lawyers of UP have been on strike for so many days and lawyers of West UP since nearly a month? I have just no hesitation in saying that even the Bar Council of India has not covered itself with glory by maintaining a deafening silence on it knowing fully well that the Hapur incident was so serious in which even senior lawyers and women lawyers got seriously injured with many even being admitted to hospital! But I must say that what came as a glimmer of hope for Hapur lawyers is that the Supreme Court Bar Association, Allahabad High Court Bar Association, Lucknow High Court Bar Association, Bar Council of UP and Delhi Bar Council and many other Bar Council of different States including Delhi, Uttarakhand among others and even Kathmandu Bar Association have openly expressed full solidarity with the Hapur lawyers and even boycotted work in their support! To be deadly honest, it must be conceded that someone has to come forward and “bell the cat” and who can be better than the top court itself and so the Supreme Court must take the lead in this regard and take suo motu cognizance of the growing attack on lawyers in UP, Punjab and different States by the police officials and it merits no reiteration that the most strictest action must be taken against the guilty men and women in police uniform who resorted to unprovoked lathicharge in Hapur and custodial torture of a young advocate due to which the lawyers of Punjab and Haryana High Court are compelled to strike now!