Brand-new DELHI: The Patiala Residence courts — equidistant from the police headquarters and the seat of the Union government — saw an unprecedented breakdown of law and order, for the second time within three days, on Wednesday. Unbelievably, the goons in black robes who had terrorized reporters and others on Monday, returned to do a repeat amidst heavy police presence. Waving the Tricolour and shouting slogans, they ran berserk, thrashing reporters, clashing with other lawyers and, finally, assaulting JNUSU president Kanhaiya Kumar, who was being produced for a hearing on the sedition charges versus him.
No action was taken versus the lawyers, who had a free run of the place, though the policemen did sporadically intervene to escort people out. Late at night, amidst widespread outrage and condemnation, Delhi Police registered an FIR under sections of assault on the basis of a statement by Kanhaiya which he recorded in the presence of the judge. Police sources said he has actually identified one of the attackers in the statement. The police are likely to register a second FIR taking suo motu cognizance of the ruckus created by the lawyers through the day.
Kanhaiya had been brought to the court around 2:40pm through Gate No. 4. While he was being escorted to the court room, a group of 80-100 lawyers surrounded the police team accompanying him and rained blows and punches on him. The policemen managed to push back a few of them but were overpowered. However, soon more cops arrived and managed to rescue him. Some lawyers tried to attack Kumar outside the court room as well but the police managed to stop them. The lawyers later bragged before the cops, “We have done our bit, we have slapped him.” Some were heard discussing they could complete the job if they were arrested and sent to Tihar.
Later in the evening, around 5:30pm, the lawyers once again began gathering in large numbers in the court premises and raised slogans, saying Kanhaiya wouldn’t be spared. By 6:30pm, the police had asked all journalists to leave, citing security reasons. Amidst a lot of drama and through a rarely used entrance, Kumar was finally escorted out around 6:55pm and taken to Tihar Jail.
This was only the culmination of utter lawlessness for three hours during which everyone, except the agitating lawyers, were asked to leave the court premises. Two reporters, Tariq Anwar from Firstpost and Kundan Jha from Millennium Post, along with two lawyers defending Kumar, were punched and manhandled. Lots of others, including Meenakshi of Times Now, were heckled, manhandled, threatened and abused. The journalists who tried to use their phones incurred the wrath of the bullies and were greeted with slogans like “Media ko phaansi do, media murdabaad.” Police commissioner B S Bassi, later, glorified these goons in black by calling them “law officers of the court”.
The first signs of chaos were seen around 1pm when the two lawyers, along with some AISF supporters, entered the court premises to verify the timing of Kanhaiya’s appearance before the judge. They ran into the protesting lawyers, including Vikram Chauhan, who has actually been accused of thrashing reporters earlier as well. The two were beaten up brutally near the lawns. Reporters Anwar and Jha were taking pictures of these agitating lawyers with their mobile phones. According to Jha, the lawyers first tried to force them to stop and within minutes a group started heckling them. “While I managed to escape, the mob thrashed Tariq and damaged his phone,” said Jha.
By this time, some policemen had managed to rescue the men from the attackers and escorted them outside the gate. Reinforcements were called in and media personnel outside were asked to maintain a distance from Gate No. 2. The protesting lawyers shouting slogans were asked to remain within the barricades put up outside the court room. Police sources say that 3,000 policemen were deployed around the premises to prevent outsiders from entering the court.
Around 2pm, some lawyers gathered at the lawn and started pelting stones at the media personnel standing outside. “It was a riot-like situation…we were cowering behind parked vehicles to escape from the stones being flung at us,” said Azan Javaid of DNA newspaper. A court staffer who had tried to take a photograph of this was also thrashed by the lawyers.
Later in the day, the TOI court reporter was also abused when lawyers saw her sending tweets. This happened around 6:30pm when the policemen were getting ready to escort Kumar out of the court complex. The goons came close to punching the reporter but a lawyer known to her and a policeman managed to save her. He pleaded with them: “Bacchi hai, jaane do (She is a kid, please spare her).” The reporter was then forced out of the court premises.
Supreme Court had taken note of the mayhem by then and directed Delhi Police to take necessary action versus the protesters. The cops present inside the courtroom managed to push the goons into the barricaded zone. They were shouting slogans all through.
The apex court also sent a team of six lawyers, including former union minister Kapil Sibal, to assess the situation, but this group too was heckled by the goons. The team had arrived around 3pm to take stock of the situation. Spotting them, the lawyers started raising slogans versus Sibal and shouted “ye saare dalle hain. Aaj sab ko theek kar denge.” (They are all pimps, we will fix all of them today). Empty bottles and stones were hurled at the group but no one was injured. Again, shoes and flower pots were hurled at Sibal when he was leaving the court premises. Senior Delhi Police officials had to intervene to rescue him from a mob that was following him.