In the Tis Hazari violence case from 2006, Delhi HC discharges twelve lawyers.
In January 2006, a significant controversy erupted when advocates in Delhi went on strike to protest the relocation of courtrooms from the historic Tis Hazari court to the newly established Rohini Court complex. The protests, initiated by lawyers, quickly escalated, leading to violent clashes on February 24, 2006. During this unrest, courtrooms were vandalised, with furniture destroyed, computers broken, and court records damaged in more than two dozen courtrooms.
In the aftermath of the violence, the Delhi High Court took serious action to address the matter. A full court, led by Justice Siddharth Mridul and comprising Justices Rajnish Bhatnagar and Anoop Kumar Mehndiratta, initiated contempt of court proceedings against 25 lawyers accused of involvement in the violence and destruction of property. These proceedings aimed to hold those responsible accountable for their actions and maintain the sanctity of the judiciary.
Over the years, the contempt of court proceedings against the lawyers remained pending. In their defence, the advocates claimed that the damage to the courtrooms was not directly linked to their protest, arguing that the video footage available did not provide substantial evidence connecting them to the destruction. They also maintained that they had deep respect for the institution of the judiciary and never intended to undermine its majesty and dignity.
After meticulous examination of the available evidence, including the video footage, the three-judge bench overseeing the case came to the conclusion that there was no concrete evidence directly implicating the alleged perpetrators in the destruction of the courtrooms during the protests. The Delhi court observed that the material presented failed to establish a clear connection between the advocates’ protest and the damage caused to the courtrooms.
The video footage did not show any evidence of advocates manhandling their colleagues or obstructing the administration of justice during the protest. Furthermore, the Delhi court noted that the advocates had expressed deep remorse for the events that unfolded and that they never intended to cause any distress or harm to the court’s reputation.
Taking into account the prolonged duration of the contempt proceedings, which had been pending since 2006, and the genuine remorse shown by the advocates, the bench decided to exonerate all 12 lawyers of criminal contempt of court charges. The court acknowledged that the Sword of Damocles had been hanging over the alleged contemnors for 17 years, and it was time to bring closure to the matter.
The incident of Tis Hazari court violence and its aftermath underscored the delicate equilibrium between the right to protest and the imperative to uphold the rule of law and preserve the sanctity of judicial institutions. Citizens indeed have the constitutional right to engage in peaceful protests as a means to voice their concerns and grievances. However, it is vital to ensure that such expressions of dissent remain nonviolent and do not disrupt the proper functioning of the judiciary, which plays a crucial role in upholding justice.
The controversy stemmed from the contentious decision to relocate courtrooms from the historic Tis Hazari court to the newly established Rohini Court complex. This move sparked strong reactions from the legal community, particularly advocates who feared that the relocation would adversely affect access to justice for litigants and hinder the efficiency of the judicial process. These apprehensions became the driving force behind the lawyers’ protests.
Unfortunately, the situation escalated on February 24, 2006, when the protests turned violent. During this unfortunate incident, courtrooms were vandalised, with furniture destroyed, computers broken, and court records damaged in more than two dozen courtrooms. The violence posed a significant challenge to the judicial system, and swift action was deemed necessary to address the situation and maintain the dignity of the judiciary.
In response to the upheaval, the Delhi High Court’s full court took a resolute stand to address the matter and uphold the reputation of the judiciary. The court initiated contempt of court proceedings against 25 lawyers allegedly involved in the violence and destruction of property. This move aimed to hold those responsible accountable for their actions and send a message that the rule of law would be upheld.
However, as the proceedings unfolded, the case faced delays, and the contempt proceedings remained pending for an extended period. Such lengthy legal processes can exacerbate stress and uncertainty for the accused and witnesses alike, raising questions about the efficacy of the legal system in delivering timely justice. The incident serves as a poignant reminder of the need for reforms to streamline legal processes and ensure prompt resolution of cases, thus alleviating the burden on all parties involved.
After a thorough examination of the evidence, including video footage, the three-judge bench presiding over the case found no substantial evidence directly implicating the alleged perpetrators in the destruction of the courtrooms during the protests. The Delhi court noted that the available material failed to establish a clear connection between the advocates’ protest and the damage caused to the courtrooms.
The judges also acknowledged that the contemnors had expressed deep remorse for the events that transpired and reiterated their utmost respect for the institution of the judiciary. They emphasised that it was never their intention to cause any distress or undermine the majesty and dignity of the court of law.
Consequently, the bench decided to exonerate all 12 lawyers of criminal contempt of court charges, bringing closure to the prolonged proceedings. This outcome underscores the significance of adopting a fair and evidence-based approach to adjudicating cases, ensuring that decisions are grounded in concrete evidence rather than mere allegations.
The entire episode serves as a poignant reminder of the collective responsibility of all stakeholders, including lawyers, the judiciary, and the government, to engage in constructive dialogue and find amicable solutions to contentious issues. While the right to protest is essential for democratic expression, it must be exercised responsibly to avoid violence and disruptions to the administration of justice.
Respect for the rule of law and the freedom to express dissent in a peaceful manner are fundamental pillars of a vibrant democracy. Striking the right balance between these principles remains crucial for maintaining harmony, justice, and the proper functioning of society as a whole. Through continuous dialogue, cooperation, and adherence to established legal principles, stakeholders can work together to address grievances and shape a better future for all.