Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Woman thrashed inside HC in presence of police, advocates

Woman thrashed inside HC in presence of police, advocates

A Subramani, TNN, Sep 21, 2010, 05.30am IST

CHENNAI: In an incident that underscored the vulnerability of the Madras high court campus to security threats, a young woman was thrashed and dragged away by her relatives in full public view on Monday even as police personnel watched in silence. Even her screams and wails evoked no response from the personnel posted on the court premises.

Finally, when the gang of relatives attempted to push the 25-year-old woman, Deepa, into a waiting car, some advocates intervened and said they would not allow her to be taken away in such a manner. They escorted Deepa back to the court and the judges, who took up the matter again, sent her to a government home.

As per a February 2007 order of the first bench of the court and a subsequent government order, the HC premises should be guarded by a 252-strong police force "at all times". The order, passed by the then Chief Justice AP Shah and Justice K Chandru, said: "No personnel, who is coming within the sanctioned strength of 252, comprising various categories, shall be deputed to any other work, except for the work of the high court, and no diversion of the force will be permitted, except with the prior permission of the chief justice."

The government had given its full consent to the order and besides stationing the prescribed number of personnel, it also gave an undertaking that they would be imparted adequate training.
If 252 police personnel were actually on duty on the court campus on Monday, none of them was seen anywhere near the hapless woman when she was being thrashed and dragged away by her relatives.

The matter relates to a habeas corpus petition filed by K Manimaran (27) of Villupuram district, stating that his wife Deepa was in the illegal detention of her parents. Manimaran, a law graduate, and Deepa, an MPhil degree holder, got married in October 2008, when they both were students, and were living separately till June this year. After Deepa's father got to know about the marriage, the couple started living together since July 28. On August 13, her parents took her away by force, prompting Manimaran to file a habeas corpus petition. However, when she was produced in court on Monday, Deepa informed the judges that she was staying with her father after ill-treatment by her husband and that she was not under any illegal detention. After recording this statement, the bench, comprising Justices M Chockalingam and M Sathyanarayanan, allowed Deepa to go with her parents.

The commotion started when Deepa stepped out of the court hall; her relatives rained blows on her. When they tried to bundle her out of the court premises, unmindful of her full-throated screams, not a single police or court official came to her rescue. She collapsed on the staircase, gasping for breath. On information, registrar-general S Vimala rushed to the spot, but Deepa had already been carried to a waiting vehicle by then.

Madras High Court Advocates Association president RC Paul Kanagaraj and senior lawyer Y Deva Arul Prakash explained the commotion to the judges and said Deepa was not safe in the custody of her parents. After Paul Kanagaraj mentioned the matter to the judges in their chambers, the court re-convened in the afternoon and said Deepa must be sent to the government home on Kutchery Road in Mylapore until further orders. It said neither her husband nor her parents must visit the home and disturb her during her stay there.
More than the facts and circumstances of Deepa's case, what was shocking was the utter absence of response from the police and court security personnel, who must maintain campus peace "at all times".

"If the police cannot foil a motley group's uncivil behaviour on campus, how can they be expected to take on concerted anti-social behaviour or a serious security breach?" asked an angry senior member of the Bar.

The incident also exposed the dangers of unfettered access available to private vehicles and strangers frequenting the court premises. It is time to restore the hugely popular and successful access control system, which was the first victim of the February 19, 2009, police-advocate clash on the campus, feel some senior advocates.

"Regulating the entry of private vehicles and strangers and streamlining vehicle parking on the campus will greatly enhance the general security situation in the high court," said a senior police official.