A parking dispute at the Tis Hazari courts in north Delhi on Saturday snowballed into a violent clash between the police and lawyers that left 50 people injured, including two advocates hit by gunshots, and many parked vehicles burned and vandalised.

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Police vehicle had been set on fire, eight prison vans vandalised, and the windows of many lawyers’ chambers and cars smashed. (File Photo)

The confrontation started at around 2pm and lasted for over two hours, at the end of which a dozen motorcycles and a police vehicle had been set on fire, eight prison vans vandalised, and the windows of many lawyers’ chambers and cars smashed.

The fire from the torched vehicles ended up burning a portion of a court building, and the billowing smoke left judges, prisoners and others gasping for breath. The clashes also saw many undertrial prisoners trapped between the two groups, eyewitnesses said. The police said they saved several prisoners in the lock-up by forming a human chain; lawyers said they rescued four prisoners from a jail van that was being vandalised.

According to both the parties, the trigger was a dispute over a lawyer parking his car near the court’s lock-up area. The lawyer was asked not to park there because it would obstruct the movement of jail vans, the police said. This led to a heated argument that turned into a scuffle and soon erupted into violence.

The lawyers said that at least 40 of them were injured, two of them by bullets fired by the police and the rest in a baton-charge. The police said they knew of only eight lawyers getting injured.

One person who had a bullet injury to the shoulder has been admitted. The bullet was removed in a minor procedure and the person was taken to the hospital ICU {intensive care unit}. There were four other people who had cuts and lacerations from the scuffle. They were just given first aid,” said a St Stephen’s hospital personnel.

Joint commissioner of police (JCP) Alok Kumar said that an assistant sub-inspector fired two rounds when lawyers assaulted policemen and stormed the prisoners’ lock-up. The bullets left two advocates, Vijay Verma and Ravi Yadav, with injuries to a shoulder and a hand, respectively. Verma underwent a medical procedure at St Stephen’s Hospital, where the bullet was removed. Yadav was said to be out of danger. The police said that 20 of their officers were injured — one of them had a fracture and a few had head injuries. The injured officers included the additional deputy commissioner of police (north) and two station house officers. The lawyers responded by announcing an indefinite strike at all district courts in Delhi. “We are abstaining from work till the time action is taken against the culprits,” said Jaiveer Singh Chauhan, secretary of the Delhi Bar Association. The lawyers would resume work only after a case is registered against the policemen and they are suspended, he said.

The Bar Council of India offered support to the lawyer, demanding action against the police, and urged the advocates to maintain peace and not to take the law into their hands. “The brutal action of police in Tis Hazari Court against Advocates is completely beyond tolerance of the Bar,” BCI said. “We demand from the higher police officials of Delhi Police to immediately arrest the culprits, put them under suspension failing which the situation will go beyond the control of the Government.” JCP Kumar said that complaints had been received from the advocates as well as the police. “We will be registering cases on both complaints. We are establishing the sequence of events and seeing what legal sections are to be applied,” he said . The police have formed an SIT of the crime branch to probe the two cases. The two groups narrated a different sequence of events. “An advocate was parking his car near the lock-up of the court. That would have hindered the movement of prison vans in which undertrial prisoners are ferried,” said Anil Mittal, additional PRO of Delhi Police.

When a policeman with the Third Battalion – a Delhi Police unit tasked with movement of prisoners from jails to courts – objected to the “improper parking“, it led to an argument.

Lawyers alleged that a group of policemen forced the advocate into the lock-up of prisoners. “When the word spread, we asked the police to release him. When they refused, it led to a clash during which a policeman fired at us,” alleged Rahul Dev Sharma, an advocate.

The police version said the advocate wasn’t locked up. “The parking argument was followed by a large number of lawyers assembling near the lock-up and trying to break in. When we stopped them, they turned violent, set vehicles on fire and attempted to storm the lock-up. In self-defence, and to save the undertrial prisoners, police fired in the air,” said Mittal.

Over the next two hours, even repeated interventions by some judges failed to stop the violence.

According to an official who asked not to be named, commissioner of police Amulya Patnaik met the registrar general of the Delhi high court to discuss the incident. They discussed the possibility of a magisterial probe, this person added

Source from HT media