Court officials convert a police outpost into a PWD office

The Madras High Court Bench premises here was once touted be one of the most highly fortified campus in the southern districts. But the court complex lost its sheen ever since the clash between the lawyers and police in Chennai on February 19 last year and it is now guarded only by unarmed police personnel who do not even carry a baton with them.

To add to the irony, even a police outpost near the main entrance to the High Court Bench has been converted into an office for the Public Works Department. As of now, more than 70 personnel from the Tamil Nadu Special Police Battalion were guarding the campus. Of them, only sentries in the judges' bungalows, behind the court buildings, were armed with guns. Others remained unarmed.

The present state of security cover in the court campus was in stark contrast to plans chalked out before the February 19 clash. Then, a committee of High Court judges was constituted to beef up the safety measures and it was decided to subject every other person entering the court buildings to a thorough screening with the help of metal detectors and also to erect huge towers in the campus for aerial surveillance.

On January 22, 2009, the Inspector General of Police (south zone) S.S. Krishnamoorthy, who was then the Deputy Inspector General of Police (Madurai range), inspected the Bench premises along with the Superintendent of Police M. Manohar. The two officials studied the entire topography of the court campus spread over 106 acres, including a water body.

The visit was necessitated due to a public interest litigation petition filed by a lawyer seeking a direction to the police to safeguard the Bench premises from falling victim to terrorist attacks similar to the one that took place in Mumbai. Passing interim orders in the case, a Division Bench on January 5 directed the State Government to submit the contingency plans, if any, drawn up to protect the court campus.

Claiming that the Bench lacked sufficient security due to free access provided to every other person, the PIL petitioner had feared that it might prove dangerous for hundreds of people visiting the court. Hence, the two top police officials mulled over the possibility of erecting watch towers on the four corners of the campus and also took a rough estimate of the number police personnel required for the job.

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