Talks between city lawyers and Delhi Police broke down before they even went underway on Thursday, the ice failing to thaw in the face of simmering resentment on both sides over last weekend’s violent clash at a district court, a subsequent assault on officers by members of the legal profession and an unprecedented public protest by the police.
No discussion took place, with the lawyers returning after the police department deputed an officer of the rank of joint commissioner to attend the meeting, instead of more senior special commissioners or deputy commissioners. Delhi Police claimed that there had been a communication gap and it was supposed to be a meeting to discuss administrative issues.
Lawyers said they would boycott work across the six district courts — Patiala House court, Tis Hazari district court, Karkardoooma district court, Saket district court, Dwarka district court and Rohini district court — for the fifth day in a row on Friday in the absence of talks with the police.
The joint commissioner of police, central range, called the meeting on Thursday evening to discuss administrative issues related to Tis Hazari with lawyers who practice at the court, Delhi Police said in a statement.
“However, the Coordination Committee of the Districts Bar Associations turned up there, under the impression that they will be having a meeting with senior officials, to discuss the situation as prevailing in the city as a whole. Regretting the communication gap, it was clarified that issues pertaining only to North District Courts were intended to be discussed, in order to resume the normal functioning there and a separate meeting will be held, at higher level, to suitably address the larger issues,” the statement said.
Tension has simmered between the police and lawyers since a parking dispute at the Tis Hazari complex in north Delhi flared into violence on Saturday, causing an officer to fire two shots and the police to start a baton charge. According to the police count, 21 policemen and eight lawyers were injured in the clash.
On Monday, some policemen were beaten up at the Saket court by protesting lawyers, prompting around 3,000 members of the force to stage a demonstration at their own headquarters the next day against both the assault and the perceived failure of senior officers to come to their defence.
On Wednesday, the Delhi high court expressed anguish and counselled a joint meeting of representatives of the lawyers and the police department to sort out their differences. “We are hopeful that, if a sincere attempt is made in this direction, peace and harmony will ultimately prevail,” a bench of chief justice DN Patel and justice C Hari Shankar said.
Dhir Singh Kasana, secretary, coordination committee of the Districts Bar Associations, said the lawyers had been informed that two special commissioners of police, a local deputy commissioner of police and joint commissioner of police would be attending Thursday’s meeting.
“But there was only a JCP rank officer. We were informed that senior police officials would be present for the meeting. However, in absence of any such officers, the meeting could not take place as there was no authorising officer or any such judicial officer,” Kasana said.
A statement by the committee said the association then decided to cancel the meeting.
“Abstinence from work in all Delhi District Courts will continue tomorrow (November 8). In order to ensure success of the movement, all r requested to maintain the movement peacefully. Litigants be permitted to have access to the court rooms,” the statement said.