55-year-old Manimaran, a senior lawyer was working in his chamber within the Madras high court premises when his son Rajesh had come to see him. An argument followed, and Rajesh suddenly took out a sickle and slashed his father, injuring him severely.
Manimaran is now stable at the Government hospital, and Rajesh has been taken into police custody.
After a slew of murders in 2 months had sparked discourse around whether Chennai city was safe - the hacking of advocate Manimaran in the Madras High Court premises has raised questions about the security in court.
Madras High Court and violence
This is not the first time that the Madras High Court has had a brush with violence.
In 2009, Subramanian Swamy was manhandled and abused by a group of lawyers in a court room at the Madras High Court. Shouting pro-LTTE slogans, advocates hurled eggs and manhandled him in the presence of the two judges.
The Court had to be shut for more than a week as police resorted to lathi charge on the lawyers and the civilians when things had gone out of hand.
Though Judge Chandru had then asked for CISF security to be provided in court, it was denied.
Later in 2015, things flared up again in the court, lawyers entered Chief Justice S K Kaul's court hall and staged a dharna demanding that Tamil be declared as the High Court’s official language.
The CJ then asked the Tamil Nadu government to ask the Union Home Ministry make the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) protect the Madras High Court. The CJ pointed fingers at the unruly behavior of lawyers.
Is more security the answer?
The CISF police started manning the main gate of the High Court from November 2015. In addition to this, about 200 policemen are deputed outside the chambers of advocates. But the other entries to the High Court are managed by Chennai police. Policemen on duty at court say that have ‘blanket instructions to not frisk lawyers’.
The head of the Lawyer’s association Prabhakaran wants security tightened and has called for airport level of security in the premises. “Some of us do want to co-operate with security measures. All of us are not bad eggs. A negligible amount of lawyers had lodged their protest against getting frisked. Take the case of KG Balakrishnan, who in 2007 called for high security after a few bomb scares were reported in the Supreme Court.,” he told TNM.
"Many lawyers carry a kit comprising of retractable paper cutters (looks like pen knives), scissors, thread and needles, which when security is beefed up can cause more harm than good," says Sudha Ramalingam, a senior advocate at the Madras HC.
High security, she says, is likely to stifle both lawyers and clients who approach them for legal aid.
For some, as senior advocate Rajashekar says, it’s concern about the image of the lawyers which gets a beating. “Lawyers are not above law, they cannot enjoy a clout and throw it around while interacting with the police. But they do it. The image of lawyers attributed to rowdyism causes enough harm”, he says.
Sudha Ramalingam is however, on the other end of the argument. “By beefing up security, we are making a public space inaccessible. We try to make the premises as minimally invasive as possible. Referring to Advocate Manimaran's dispute with his two families, she says, "What we must all learn from this is, to practice monogamy and not have two wives. That's it."
Though Prabhakaran and others are demanding higher security, police at the High Court are perturbed and say that would ever work.
“When we ask lawyers to show their ID card, they flash us an angry stare and abuse us verbally. This happens particularly when they are in robes or have an advocate sticker on their vehicle. One even asked us multiple times whether he should hang his ID card from his genitals every time he was asked. The police are honestly tired of being at the receiving end of this. We can have more security, but who will agree to be frisked?” said a police official.