Lawyers and journalists getting into brawls isn’t a new occurrence in India. Such incidents are reported often. The assault on two journalists by a group of lawyers at the Patiala House Court earlier this year in New Delhi, was a much publicised one.
A similar situation prevailed in Kochi, between advocates and journalists, over the last two days. News reports highlighted that the initial scuffle took place after a government pleader was arrested on molestation charges. However, lawyers have been quick to clarify that the arrest wasn’t the cause for these clashes.
The Kerala High Court Advocates’ Association had passed a resolution condemning police atrocities on government pleader Dhanesh Mathew Manjooran.
However, trouble started brewing after Deccan Chronicle published an article saying, “Though a resolution was moved before the Kerala High Court by the Advocates Association, the same was not passed owing to a difference of opinion.” According to sources, who wish to remain anonymous, the resolution had indeed been passed.
The issue escalated after a few lawyers confronted the reporter who wrote the story on Tuesday and asked him to publish a correct version of the story along with an apology for the errant reporting. This led to a verbal spat between the reporter and the lawyers.
After the incident, media persons got together in the media room of the High Court and started preparing a petition, as a symbol of protest. A group of lawyers appeared at this time and a verbal spat took place between them yet again. The issue was later resolved by the vice-president of the association.
However, the same evening, the media fraternity decided to protest against the issue by staging a march to the High Court Advocates’ Association office. During this march, the media persons allegedly pelted stones and an advocate was injured in the incident.
On Wednesday, the lawyers passed a resolution and the Registry locked the media room to prevent the further escalation. While this happened, some lawyers allegedly manhandled a few members of the media.
“The manhandling was unexpected and happened all of a sudden,” says a lawyer, who doesn’t wish to be named.
Later that day, the scribes attempted to gherao the High Court. The advocates then asked the police to remove the journalists from the site as they were protesting within 50 metres of the High Court, something that is not permitted. But the police were hesitant initially. A lawyer then tried to take his bike out of the premises. By then, the police obliged and asked the protesters to disperse from the spot. These two incidents probably triggered the spontaneous clashes that happened next between both parties. There was some slogan-raising and pelting of stones, with people from both sides getting injured. Some advocates also sustained serious injuries after the police resorted to lathi charge to disperse the mob.
Deccan Herald has issued an apology over the errant report.
Members of the legal fraternity have taken to social media to express their opinion on the issue.
The misleading article seems to have been the trigger which caused the incident that has tarnished the reputation of both the media and the advocates. The dignity of these professions has been compromised. Both sides will do well to exercise restraint in the future and settle issues like these in a peaceful manner.
(Disclaimer: The Executive Editor of the Kochi Post is a lawyer by education.)
The news report in the cover picture is from Deccan Chronicle, Kochi edition, on July 19.