Coming straight to the nub of the matter, the Delhi High Court on January 29 issued a notice to the Delhi Government and also to the Delhi Police on a plea of Delhi High Court Bar Association (DHCBA) seeking an SIT probe in the dastardly attack on lawyers of DHCBA in separate incidents in January. The Bench of Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice C Hari Shankar directed that the report should be filed under the signature of a senior police officer, which shall be shown to the Delhi Police Commissioner. It directed that the report should be filedin two daysas the incidents warrants swift and necessary action.
As it turned out, a plea has been moved before the Delhi High Court seeking a court-monitored SIT probe into the attacks on the lawyers, besides guidelines for advocates security.
Truth be told, in a dastardly attack on three cars belonging to two senior lawyers were torched while cars and an office building of their colleague were attempted to be set on fire allegedly by miscreants in three separate incidents between January 4 and January 22. What is most disconcerting to note is that the three senior lawyers includes Kirti Uppal who is the President of Delhi High Court Bar Association and Vikas Pahwa who has been a senior counsel of the Government and has also been conducting cases both in the Delhi High Court and the Supreme Court. This has shaken lawyers not just in Delhi but all across the country!
Let me say this most categorically: If there is one High Court which is reputed for seldom going to strike, it is none other than Delhi High Court. It is only when something very serious happens that Delhi High Court Bar Association decides to go on complete strike. One such rare occasion was on 25 January, 2018. That is why even I was awestruck on reading in the news that the Delhi High Court Bar Association has called for strike on 25 January.
Sure enough, there were compelling reasons for the lawyers of Delhi High Court to go on a complete strike on 25 January. The Delhi High Court Bar Association resolved to abstain from workon Thursday, i.e. 25 January, as a mark of solidarity against a recent dastardly attack on two senior and eminent advocates of the Delhi High Court – Kirti Uppal and Vikas Pahwa. As per a resolution passed by the Executive Committee of the Delhi High Court Bar Association, another attack had been staged against advocate Ravi Sharma, when two of his vehicles parked in the courtyard of his house were burned.
Be it noted, these three advocates who have been attacked have together been supporting firmly the cause of a lady advocate. What wrong have they done? They were just discharging their professional duty and who can it understand better than them who have spent decades in this noble profession?
Truly speaking, the matter reportedly pertains to lodging of a stalking case against a woman lawyer, who was then allegedly dragged out of her residence by the city police to arrest her despite court orders against coercive action. This is reprehensible! What is even more despicable is that the lawyers are now being themselves personally attacked!
What can be more disgraceful than this! This should not have happened at the first instance! How will courts function normally if advocates themselves are subjected to personal attacks and even their vehicles are not spared?
As per the resolution of the Executive Committee of the Delhi High Court Bar Association, even though the FIRs have been registered by the lawyers, the attitude of the police 'looks lackadaisical and deliberate protracting”. The police must wake up its ideas! This is a very serious charge!
Needless to say, Delhi police must go all out to make the necessary amends in this direction and ensure that the culprits who attacked the lawyers are swiftly brought to book and strictly punished in accordance with the law! Delhi High Court Bar Association is reputed all over the world for always working in the most professional manner! What is said by its Executive Committee has to be taken most seriously by the Delhi police and steps must be taken by it promptly to restore the faith of the lawyers of Delhi High Court in the police!
To put things in perspective, the resolution of the Executive Committee of the Delhi High Court Bar Association then asserts that, 'The Executive Committee is unanimous of the view that the present situation is an extra ordinary in nature in as much as these heinous acts have been executed with the intention to overawe and strike terror in our community by using inflammable substances, in a manner so as to cause injuries or loss of life and damage/destruction of property in order to terrorize the Advocates to refrain from performing their professional duties. The Executive Committee feels that this act of terror threatens the statutory duty of lawyers to conduct themselves fearlessly and with dignity in defending a client.”
To be sure, The Executive Committee also feels that inspite of registration of these FIRs by the lawyers and personal meeting of the Members of the Committee with the Police at the highest level apprising them about the nexus and also providing them with the CCTV footages of these criminal acts, adequate and proper attention is not being given to the matter and their approach looks lackadaisical and deliberately protracting. The Committee further states that Proxy Counsels have been appointed for every Court and a list will be displayed on the notice boards as well as outside every Court room.”
Who can deny that attacks on lawyers in past few years have increased manifold? But what is most concerning to note is that now even the lawyers and that too senior and eminent lawyers like Vikas Pahwa and others are not safe even while practicing in the High Court and Supreme Court! The lawyers of Meerut are most concerned for his safety apart from Delhi because his father – KK Pahwa too is an eminent criminal lawyer in Meerut Bar and I consider myself fortunate to having interacted with him some years ago! Moreover, Vikas Pahwa is a legal luminary whose articles keep coming even in national newspapers like ‘The Times of India' which I have the privilege of reading myself even though I have not personally met Vikas Pahwa ever till now! But he and his father are always appreciated and held in highest esteem by the lawyers here!
Anyway, coming back to the main subject, the Executive Committee of the Delhi High Court Bar Association of which senior advocate Vikas Pahwa is also a member on January 24 passed a resolution condemning the attacks on 9thand 22ndJanuary on the properties and cars of senior advocates Pahwa and Kirti Uppal who is also the President of Delhi High Court Bar Association by using inflammable substances. Not just this, a similar incident the lawyers claimed had taken place on 4thJanuary when the two cars – Maruti Swift and Honda Amaze which were parked in the east Delhi house of advocate Ravi Sharma were torched by unidentified persons. Police itself admitted that attempts were made to set ablaze Vikas Pahwa's Greater Kailash office building and cars on 9thJanuary! .
Vikas Pahwa who is also a member of the Executive Committee revealed that, 'There is a complete ban. No advocate appeared in courts and no evidence was recorded in any case. We are holding a peaceful protest and have removed our bands. The Bar is also preparing a writ petition seeking an SIT probe into the incident.” Who can question this demand for SIT probe? There must be SIT probe and truth must come out as to who all are behind this dastardly attack on three eminent and senior lawyers of Delhi High Court. All the shops in the court complex are also shut following the Bar's call and even Judges left their chambers on seeing the lawyers strike!
Advocate Vikas Pahwa's Greater Kailash office building and parked cars were attempted to be set on fire on January 9. He said such acts of mischief were done to intimidate him. An FIR was registered on January 11 on Pahwa's complaint. On January 22, Kirti Uppal's Hyundai Tucson car that was sparked outside her house in South Delhi's Nizamuddin West was set on fire by unidentified miscreants, according to the FIR registered.
Vikas Pahwa also disclosed that the stilt area of the house was also damaged in the fire. Before the arson attempt at his office building, Pahwa said that two cars – Maruti Swift and Honda Amaze which belonged to advocate Ravi Sharma were set on fire by unidentified miscreants onJanuary 4. The cars were parked at Sharma's Dayanand Vihar home in East Delhi. Vikas Pahwa also revealed while quoting the FIR filed at the Anand Vihar police station that, 'Footage from the CCTV of Sharma's neighbour showed a man driving a car stopping outside Sharma's house and throwing something on his cars in flames.”
It goes without saying that the lawyers all across India stand firmly and fully with these 3 senior and eminent advocates of Delhi High Court in this hour. If lawyers who are the officers of the court are themselves attacked in this dastardly manner and the guilty are not quickly brought to book and the Delhi High Court Bar Association finds that police is displaying a total lackadaisical approach then who will defend fearlessly the litigants in courts? This is a very serious question and the police, Centre and Delhi government need to honestly introspect on this!
Needless to say, it is the bounden duty of both Centre and Delhi government to ensure that full protection is given especially to senior lawyers so that no harm is caused to them or to their property in any manner! They must not back away from it! Who is safe if lawyers themselves are not safe and that to in our national capital? No one!
It needs no rocket scientist to conclude that the strike by lawyers of Delhi High Court on January 25 stands fully and firmly justified! It was imperative to highlight the attention of the government to make serious efforts in this direction and to also ensure that police gets rid of its complacency that is too visible in this entire case! One fervently hopes that the police will at least now take suitable action to bring the culprits to book as soon as possible and the lawyers of Delhi High Court would not be compelled to once again go on fresh strike pressing for their demands!