The Supreme Court on Friday stayed two directions by the Madras High Court to the Tamil Nadu government, to initiate disciplinary proceedings against four senior police officers and to place them under suspension.
The High Court had held them responsible for excesses by police personnel during a clash between lawyers and the police on the High Court premises on February 19, and had wanted them suspended to enable a fair and unbiased enquiry. The High Court in its October 29 judgment held the then Chennai Police Commissioner, K. Radhakrishnan; the then Additional Commissioner of Police, A.K. Viswanathan; the then Joint Commissioner of Police (North), M. Ramasubramani; and the then Deputy Commissioner of Police, Flower Bazaar, Prem Anand Sinha, responsible for the incidents which occurred in violation of statutory provisions.
A Bench comprising Justice G.S. Singhvi and Justice A.K. Ganguly stayed the directions after hearing Attorney-General G.E. Vahanvati and T. Harish Kumar for the State, and senior counsel Soli Sorabjee and Abhishek Singhvi for three of the police officers, who had filed separate appeals against the High Court judgment. (Mr. Viswanathan is yet to file his appeal).
When Mr. Sorabjee pleaded for a stay of the contempt proceedings and the order asking the four police officers to be present in the court on December 18, Tamil Nadu Advocates’ Association president S. Prabhakaran and Supreme Court Bar Association president M.N. Krishnamani, appearing for the lawyers, opposed it stating that only a notice had been issued.
Mr. Justice Ganguly told Mr. Sorabjee and Mr. Abhishek Singhvi: “We’ll not stay contempt notice at this stage. You go and appear. If any adverse order is passed, then you come to us. We’ll see.”
Mr. Vahanvati submitted that the State was mainly concerned with two directions: to initiate disciplinary proceedings and to place the officers under suspension.
He said the High Court had completely ignored the Justice B.N. Srikrishna Committee’s report, which had exonerated the then Police Commissioner.
“A serious issue”
At this juncture, Justice Singhvi said: “This is a serious issue, whether the report of a retired Judge of the Supreme Court can be ignored. If this is so, we’ve to consider whether retired or serving judges should accept the post of Commission of Inquiry at all.” Mr. Krishnamani said the court had indicted the officers after giving them an opportunity [to defend themselves]. Mr. Prabhakaran submitted that the AG had agreed that the State would implement the directions, but now, instead of complying with the judgment, it had come on appeal.
Mr. Justice Singhvi said that lawyers taking the law into their own hands was neither a new phenomenon nor peculiar to the Madras High Court. He pointed out that a few days ago lawyers in Bangalore had locked the Chief Justice of the Karnataka High Court and other judges in the court hall.