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Statement

IAPL Condemns Recent Incidents Of “Lynching” By Lawyers

Jul 26, 2018

The Indian Association of People’s Lawyers (IAPL) condemns the recent attack by lawyers on those accused of a child rape within the Madras High Court premises on 17th July 2018. This act of the officers of the Bar is not an isolated incident and has been witnessed in 2016 in the Patiala Court in Delhi and other courts. It would come within the ambit of “lynchings” as recently condemned by the Supreme Court in regard to the increasing numbers of horrifying lynching incidents all over the country. The Court inter alia had reiterated fundamental principles of the Rule of Law such as,
“15 ….. As stated earlier, an accused booked for an offence is entitled to fair and speedy trial under the constitutional and statutory scheme and, thereafter, he may be convicted or acquitted as per the adjudication by the judiciary on the basis of the evidence brought on record and the application of legal principles. There cannot be an investigation, trial and punishment of any nature on the streets. The process of adjudication takes place within the hallowed precincts of the courts of justice and not on the streets. No one has the right to become the guardian of law claiming that he has to protect the law by any means. It is the duty of the States, as has been stated in Nandini Sundar and others v. State of Chhattisgarh, to strive, incessantly and consistently, to promote fraternity amongst all citizens so that the dignity of every citizen is protected, nourished and promoted.”
“17. ...In this context, suffice it to say that it is the law enforcing agencies which have to survey, prevent and prosecute. None has the authority to enter into the said field and harbour the feeling that he is the law and the punisher himself. A country where the rule of law prevails does not allow any such thought. It, in fact, commands for ostracisation of such thoughts with immediacy.…”
“18. Lynching is an affront to the rule of law and to the exalted values of the Constitution itself. We may say without any fear of contradiction that lynching by unruly mobs and barbaric violence arising out of incitement and instigation cannot be allowed to become the order of the day. Such vigilantism, be it for whatever purpose or borne out of whatever cause, has the effect of undermining the legal and formal institutions of the State and altering the constitutional order …. Unless these incidents are controlled, the day is not far when such monstrosity in the name of self-professed morality is likely to assume the shape of a huge cataclysm. It is in direct violation of the quintessential spirit of the rule of law and of the exalted faiths of tolerance and humanity.”
While welcoming this judgement of the Supreme Court, the Indian Association of People’s Lawyers (IAPL) strongly condemns lynching in general and expresses concern that even on the very day of pronouncement of the aforesaid Judgment, elderly social activist Swami Agnivesh was lynched in Pakur, Jharkhand.

However as an association of lawyers, the IAPL, is even more particularly concerned and condemns acts of lynching that have begun to become common among lawyers themselves. Hence the IAPL condemns the recent attack by lawyers and law students on the accused of child rape within the Madras High Court premises.

While no doubt the incident of a child rape is shocking and horrific, it is important to understand that it is only by a due process of law that proper justice can be delivered. Any possibility of the accused playing a lesser or greater role in the crime has to be established by evidence. The manner in which the police personnel, despite being in large numbers, remained mute spectators is also shocking. Such an incident is not only an attack on the principle of the rule of law, but also leads to a curtailing of the legitimate democratic rights of lawyers in a state where lawyers such as Advocate Vachinathan have been imprisoned for supporting affected citizens opposing Vedanta Sterlite’s Expansion Project in Thoothukudi.

In 2016, a similarly shameful incident occurred in the Patiala Courts in Delhi when JNU student leader Kanhaiya Kumar was brutally attacked by lawyers because he was accused of raising anti-India slogans. A similar instance of lawyers seeking to dispense “instant justice” was seen in Jammu where lawyers refused to permit the police to file the chargesheet against the rape accused in the Kathua case and also harassed the lawyer of the victim. But this is not just a recent trend. The Barabanki, Faizabad and Lucknow Bars had passed resolutions in 2007, that no lawyer represent a blast accused, Aftab Alam Ansari. Two to three months after defence lawyer Mohammad Shoaib got the accused discharged on the basis of his alibi, he was attacked by a mob of lawyers at Faizabad on 1st May 2008, and even more brutally in the courtroom of CJM Lucknow on August 12th and 13th 2008. He was left bleeding in one eye and with a serious ear injury which has affected his hearing.

While the recent attack by the lawyers in the Madras High Court premises may at first sight appear justified on the ground of sympathy for the victim, or taking into account the heinousness of the crime, ultimately such incidents stain the profession. Particularly when the crimes in question concern particular communities or castes, such activities amount to lynching/ vigilantism, which arises from mob mentality and the need for immediate justice. These incidents are often led by an ideology of intolerance toward counter voices and opinions, especially in view of the widespread trend of mob lynching throughout the country in the current right-wing dominated socio-political climate.

Lawyers should be the first shield of defense against vigilantism; and should certainly not themselves partake in it, thus validating majoritarian intolerance. The Indian Association of People’s Lawyers (IAPL) appeals to all lawyers to uphold the rule of law as the protector of human rights and the court complex as a place where it prevails.
M. Venkanna
(Vice President, IAPL)

Arun Ferreira
(Treasurer, IAPL)

Jul 28, 2018