In the last 10 years, the Madras High Court has witnessed protests inside the campus despite a judicial ban. But things came to a head on September 14 when an annoyed Chief Justice S K Kaul demanded the Tamil Government to implement better protection for the court so that it can function smoothly.
The Chief Justice's outburst was after a group of lawyers along with few civilians entered the Chief Justice's court hall and staged a dharna demanding that Tamil be declared as the High Courtâ€™s official language.
The High Court took up this as contempt of court and told that the police protection provided proved to be unsuccessful in preventing the incident. The Chief Justice asked the Chief Secretary to immediately write to the Union Home Ministry to extend the protection of the High Court by the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF).
Protests and sporadic violence are not new to the courts in Tamil Nadu. Six years ago, the Madras High 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.
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In February 2007, the first Division Bench comprising of Justice Chandru Krishnaswami and Chief Justice AP Shah directed the Tamil Nadu government to provide 252 police personnel to safeguard the high court building which is a heritage site and it is a court of record under Article 215. However, consecutive state governments never maintained the said force.
After the huge clash broke out in February 2009, Justice Chandru had recommended central forces be provided to protect the campus. But the suggestion was sidelined because the â€˜then Chief Justice felt that asking for central forces may show the state government in bad lightâ€™, the former judge told The News Minute.
"It is high time the smaller courts within the campus are shifted out to other areas and the campus will have only high court alone. Then only a fool proof security can be given. There is nothing wrong in providing central forces as the state police who are detailed to high court security are always taken out for VIP protection along the main roads near the high court," justice Chandru Krishnaswami told TNM.
When asked whether the move would show the lawyer community in poor light, Justice Chandru says, "I do not think that the lawyers can have any say in the matter as it concerns the security of the court and the judges."
Justice A R Lakshmanan, Former Supreme Court judge, welcomes the Chief Justice's order too. "The Chief Justice's order is in order." he said
In February 2009, stone-pelting lawyers and the police, who resorted to lathi charge, clashed inside the court premises which turned into a virtual battlefield. A judge of the Madras High Court was among several persons injured while a police state was set ablaze in the violence.
After the February 2009 clash between the police and the lawyers, the police had shown some reluctance in taking action every time there was a protest in the courts.
"The lawyers themselves have attracted this move. The court was the one which has been very tolerant so far. There have been security issues, which have affected the smooth functioning of the court and have brought about an unpleasant atmosphere. The judiciary is the last resort for justice in a democracy. A place where one seeks justice should also be a safe and congenial place to work. The behavior of the lawyers and civilians in the court on September 14 has just pushed things to this limit." says Sudha Ramalingam, a senior lawyer in Chennai.
Prabhakaran, member of the Tamil Nadu Bar Council said, "Already 500 state police personnel had been deployed here. The Chief Justice felt the Tamil Nadu police was not equipped enough to give protection to the court and hence demanded the CISF protection as it is an independent agency and can give proper protection to the Madras High Court."
"There is no better choice anyway. On Tuesday the court was witness to some ugly scenes and discord." Prabhkaran added.
"There has been no agitation from the lawyer community. Until it does not affect the lawyers, they may agree if the Chief Justice order is passed solely because of security concerns," says Prabhakaran
Watch the video of the huge clash between lawyers and the police in February 2009