Bengaluru: As a spiralling confrontation between police and lawyers plays out in Delhi following a couple of violent clashes, it mirrors an incident that took place in Bengaluru seven years ago. In March 2012, lawyers from lower courts and police personnel had fought in the court compound and in the streets, bringing life to a near halt in India’s IT capital for days. Like Delhi, a minor incident triggered a rampage in Bengaluru.
According to reports, a traffic police constable had stopped three advocates for triple-riding on a two-wheeler near the state assembly building. When the lawyers allegedly tried to assault him, cops took them to a nearby police station and fined them. The lawyers had claimed that they were beaten there.
The next day, angry lawyers blocked roads in central parts of the city and again a clash broke out between them and the police.
The local Kannada media, mainly TV news channels, splashed the issue and even compared some advocates to goons. Angry lawyers swore revenge.
Two weeks later, former Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) minister and mining baron Gali Janardhana Reddy was brought to a city court for a hearing from a Hyderabad jail. A large media contingent had assembled in the court to cover that event.
According to witnesses, lawyers started attacking the journalists for crossing the media enclave boundaries to cover the arrival of Reddy.
The police lathi-charged the lawyers on rampage to bring the situation under control. The lawyers retaliated with equal force. Both sides suffered serious injuries and damages.
A police vehicle was set on fire, many others were damaged. Police had to rush additional forces to douse the flames, and save lives and the court building.
All hell broke loose after that. The lawyers went on strike across all city courts, barring the entry of the media and police.
The Karnataka High Court ordered an inquiry, asking the police not to enter the court premises. Several cases were quickly filed against the media and police. There were no lawyers to defend the journalists and police personnel in court. Those who came forward to fight for them were allegedly threatened by fellow lawyers.
An editor of a leading Kannada daily was manhandled in court when he appeared for a hearing.
The DV Sadananda Gowda-led BJP government in the state ordered a CID inquiry into the case. When the lawyers protested that the probe was biased, the high court ordered a CBI investigation into the incident.
The central agency charge-sheeted 15-16 police personnel and half-a-dozen journalists for the rampage. No lawyer was named.
However, the court refused to accept the charge sheet on the grounds that the CBI had not taken prior approval of the government to prosecute police personnel.
According to a senior IPS officer, the matter is still pending and there has been no progress. Some Karnataka Reserve Police constables who were on duty at the time, were charge-sheeted after their retirement.
“It was unfortunate. They met me when I was law minister. I convinced the state cabinet to bear their legal expenses,” said TB Jayachandra, former Karnataka law and parliamentary affairs minister.
Many media and police personnel said the unprecedented violence had terrorised them and, for months, they dreaded going to courts to do their job.
“That incident of hooliganism has completely broken the trust between the lawyers and police. We still suspect each other,” said a senior IPS officer who was with Bengaluru City Police at the time.
A much bigger incident of violence had taken place at the Madras High Court a few years ago after police had entered the lawyers’ chambers to bring an unruly situation under control.
Both the face-offs in Bengaluru and Chennai did not attract the nationwide attention that the Delhi rampage is getting now. One should, perhaps, blame the tyranny of distance.