Wednesday will mark eleven years after violence erupted in the Madras High Court, with pitched battles fought between lawyers and police personnel. Around 15,000 advocates belonging to the Madras High Court Advocates’ Association (MHAA) have decided to abstain from all courts and tribunals on Wednesday as a symbol of their protest. The Association stated February 19 will be observed as “Black Day” for the “brutal attack on advocates by the police” at the High Court premises.
Speaking to TNM, G Mohanakrishnan, the President of MHAA said, “Advocates will boycott lower courts in the city as well on Wednesday.” He pointed out that the February 19 case, which was investigated by the CBI is still pending before the courts. “The cases have to be expedited,” he said.
On February 19, 2009, the Madras High Court witnessed unprecedented violence, with lawyers facing off against the Chennai police. The clashes resulted in a police station within the High Court premises being set ablaze, judges chambers and court halls were ransacked, vehicles belonging to advocates and police were damaged. Lawyers were lathicharged by police dressed in riot gear. Scores were injured in the four-hour violence including a judge.
The violence was triggered by an attack on then Janata Party President Subramanian Swamy by advocates on February 17 that year. When the Chennai police attempted to arrest the group of lawyers, who allegedly attacked Swamy, the scuffle broke into widespread violence.
The Justice BN Srikrishna panel, appointed by the Supreme Court, held that an “unruly mob of lawyers” provoked the violence. It also rapped the Chennai police, stating personnel went “berserk” and the use of force went beyond what was permissible. The Srikrishna panel report, however, gave then Chennai Police Commissioner K Radhakrishnan a clean chit.
The Supreme Court then referred the Justice Srikrishna report to the Madras High Court. The HC in October 2009 found four police officials including the then Commissioner Radhakrishnan and then Additional Commissioner AK Viswanathan, who is the present Chennai Commissioner, responsible for the violence. While the officers were suspended, the Supreme Court later stayed their suspension.
Soon after the violence, the Karunanidhi-led DMK government ordered a CBI probe into the clashes. In 2010, a chargesheet was filed against 31 advocates, 10 police personnel and a law student under various sections. The four police officers, however, were not named in the CBI chargesheet. In February 2019, a trial court stayed all further proceedings against 31 advocates.