When lawyers take law into their hands…

What happens when lawyers who need to help ensure legality in public life become a law unto themselves? Is it acceptable?

Last Saturday, I was on my way to a workshop ‘In My Name – Open Letters in the Park’ organized by the Fearless Collective, when I became a witness to an incident of violence and joined others in resisting it. Unlikely coincidence or a sign of our times? I feel that this incident can best be described through the Open Letter I wrote later at the workshop.

Dear Advocates,
I don’t know you and you don’t know me. Our paths crossed coincidentally this morning (15th July 2017) when I entered Cubbon Park at the Hudson Circle gate (near the High Court) on my way to a meetup. A policeman was arguing with a motorist who had left his car in a wrong spot. You were outraged at the motorist’s language and yelled at him – he yelled back. The argument quickly escalated into violence and you started raining blows on him. One of you kept hitting the motorist on his head with your helmet. The ladies in his car got out screaming and begged you to stop. Bystanders, the policeman and park security guards tried to intervene. I also stepped in when you refused to back down.

The motorist, now roughed up, was terrified and tried to get into his car but you stopped him, even reaching into the car when he had turned on the ignition and shaking him. But somehow we were able to get you to back off and let him and his family leave.
Then, you turned on a fellow advocate who might have filmed the incident. “You are casteist – why are you being casteist?” you screamed. One of you added “How could you support a Muslim?”. The motorist was visibly Muslim.

Was that your excuse for being so brutal? If you hadn’t been stopped, the motorist would have ended up in hospital or worse. He shouldn’t have left his car where he did, but is that now a crime that warrants mob justice? You are the lawyers, you should know. Or do you think that you are so above the law that you can get away with anything? The policeman at the park later told me that he hated this posting – many lawyers don’t wear helmets, violate traffic laws with abandon and worse. And he is helpless. He reminded me of the lawyers who had rioted last year, right here.

My question is, can anyone take you on? But we will have to challenge you and others who are ready to instigate violence at the drop of a hat (or a robe). I am also thankful – I had wondered how such incident would play out in Bengaluru and if I could be brave when alone, in the absence of my friends and comrades. On both counts I am satisfied, at least a little.
Of course, wouldn’t it be great if you and your ilk could just behave like decent human beings?

Note: This was a blogpost published originally in the blog of the author, and republished here with permission.

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