The Supreme Court on Wednesday ordered restricted entry into the magistrate court where the hearing of JNUSU president Kanhaiya Kumar is set to take place today. The SC said that only family and friends of the student leader, JNU community and journalists will be allowed. It further banned entry to lawyers except those appearing on record in the case. This, it said, was being done to ensure the smooth functioning of the trial proceedings.
"The proceedings will be conducted today in the very same courtroom as the last time. This is being done to send a signal to all," Justice Chelameswar said.
The names of persons entering should be listed and cleared by the Delhi High Court Registrar General who should be present at the Patiala House court premises for the afternoon hearing.
The Supreme Court condemned the violence unleashed by lawyers and politicians on innocent persons at a Delhi court premises on February 15 during a sedition case hearing against Kanhaiya.
"Moderation is a forgotten word today in all spheres of life... We are concerned today with open court proceedings, conduct of court with decorum and access to justice for all... All these considerations should be balanced," the Bench of Justices J. Chelameswar and Abhay Manohar Sapre observed.
The court was hearing a plea by JNU alumnus ND Jayaprakash that the February 15 violence tantamounted to the "grossest contempt of court" and was "unacceptable". Court proceedings against JNU student leader facing sedition charges, were disrupted. In the ensuing violence, students, faculty members and journalists covering the court proceedings were chased and thrashed by a large group of men dressed as lawyers within and outside the Patiala House court complex here.
Lawyer disrupts proceedings
"Violence anywhere, not just in court premises, is unacceptable," both Justice Chelameswar and Justice Sapre echoed each other during the tense hearing which was disrupted by a lawyer impromptu shouting 'Vande Mataram' from the rear of the crowded court hall. Later when he was escorted back to the court hall, the lawyer apologised. "I am so sorry, My Lords. I could not contain myself," the lawyer identified as Rajeev Yadav told the Bench. "Please don't degrade this institution for your own sake, for the sake of your country and your future generations. If you do it, nothing will remain," Justice Chelameswar told him.
At this point, senior advocate Rajeev Dhawan pointed to the court that "if this is happening inside this courtroom, imagine what will be the situation outside". At one point, another lawyer said the proceedings before the Supreme Court was without any basis and "when somebody attacks my motherland, I cannot keep quiet". To this, Justice Chelameswar responded that "Mister, all of us are patriots here. Nobody is willing to degrade the motherland. But if someone does, do you take law into your hands?"
'No point in blame games'
When senior advocates KTS Tulsi and Rajeev Dhawan accused the Delhi Police of remaining a "mute spectators", Justice Chelameswar said there is no point engaging in a blame-game with anybody.
"Please remember it is easy to blame the police. If they intervene, you blame them and if they don't you still blame them. Look what happened at Madras High Court two years ago," Justice Chelameswar remarked.
Later on, Justice Chelameswar further made it clear that the court is not trying to justify the police, but only pointing out that "police is also not in a comfortable position".
"We have noticed that whenever there is a sensational case, people crowd the courts, lead protest marches to the court even before the judicial proceedings start," Justice Chelameswar said.
The Delhi Police, who is a party in the petition along with Ministry of Home Affairs, submitted that what happened on February 15 was "regrettable". It assured the apex court that today's proceedings would be conducted in a peaceful manner.
"There are six ACPs, SHOs and CRPF personnel in the court premises. And we are taking action about last time," the police lawyer submitted.
Attack on journalists condemned
The Bench took serious view of the attack on journalists. Later during the hearing, it directly asked members of the media present in the courtroom to give a list of five names of reporters they wanted inside the courtroom during the afternoon hearing.
"Journalists are the eyes and ears of the open court justice system. They were there performing their constitutional duty to report the proceedings to the nation," Mr. Dhawan submitted.
He, accompanied by advocate Prashant Bhushan, said the justification of certain lawyers that JNU community and journalists did not give seats to lawyers in the courtroom started the violence was "simply ridiculous".
The court noted the Delhi High Court's representation that it has called for a report on the violence from the District Judge and, further, its Administrative Committee would convene at 2 pm to take stock of the incident. The Bench sought a report from the High Court, while listing the case for hearing on Monday.