The brawl between police officers and lawyers over a parking lot was the manifestation of a misplaced sense of entitlement at work. The episode should lead to corrective introspection
Submission to an inviolable sense of justice, order and probity ought to be at the heart of professionals rendering policing and legal services to society. The nobility of purpose in both these professions mandates a certain code of conduct and ethics that posits the responsibility to the citizenry at large and, thereby, the nation. Many such mandates have been legislated, ingrained and templatised in the form of standard procedures, processes and even uniforms that they bear with aplomb and responsibility. The allegorical personification of Lady Justice (originally Lustitia, the goddess of justice in the Greek mythology) with a blindfold, a balance and a sword is deeply symbolic of those who uphold its tenets as protectors of justice.
Similarly, the khaki uniform of the police personnel is freighted with the citizen’s charter that explicitly seeks, among other things, the “maintenance of law and order in civil society” as a common bond between the two services. Many illustrious lawyers and policemen (and policewomen) have conducted themselves with the highest dignity, civility, service and personal sacrifices that have been the pride of the society and the nation.
Yet, the unfortunate spectacle of the violent clash between policemen and the lawyers at the Tis Hazari court in the national capital shamed the edifice of justice, which is the shared responsibility of these two callings. In an age of reckless social media, the free flow of visuals of the fights, accusations and the public protests was a reflection of institutional breakdown at various levels.
The immediate impact of this wholly avoidable fracas goes way beyond the perceptions about these two professions. It speaks volumes about the institutional one-upmanship, prevailing societal anger and above all, a misplaced sense of entitlement that some individuals may carry — all of which could taint the entirety of their services. For the sake of national security and order, institutional blame-game must be contained with immediate effect. The High Court-appointed judicial inquiry must ascertain individual acts of misdemeanour and those involved must be punished, irrespective of their professional callings.
However, the lazy and wanton lust to sully the reputation of either of the institutions can have unfathomable repercussions that the nation can ill-afford, given that both are unique and irreplaceable services, often the only source of ensuring justice to the citizenry. To that extent, the act should be treated as a matter of individual (at best a group of individuals) culpability or complicity as opposed to a situation where the top-brass of either institutions lock horns on behalf of their colleagues. The fact that the violence was triggered by a seemingly innocuous dispute over a parking space reeks of ego, vanity and a sense of fiefdom that was involved. The proverbial “turf-war” further eroded the citizen’s waning trust, faith and decorum about governmental and judicial arms, who are in dire need for reforms and reassurances.
In the melee of excesses was the regrettable irony of the Delhi Police’s motto of “Shanti, Sewa, Nyaya” (Peace, Service and Justice) or indeed, the fact that the lawyers are the ultimate restorers of the law of the land. The hapless citizenry could only mull and reminisce their own experiences at the hands of either of these two.
Such incidents also give a parallel vent to latent concerns that have remained unaddressed for far too long but contextualising the same to this incident is to distract from the immediacy and specificity of action. The unwarranted politicisation of the incident, with political parties assuming positions that suit their immediate narrative, can only fan the fire. Sane voices, who are either in positions of seniority in the respective hierarchies or those who have retired from official service, would do yeoman service by insisting on isolating the individuals concerned in the violence, as opposed to taking institutional positions.
Other collateral concerns like work conditions and officer-soldier relationship in the police among others, however true and important in their own right, are a matter of separate enquiry and resolution. In fact, there has been a plethora of committees and commissions that have identified various reforms pertaining to the efficacy of the judicial and policing services. Unfortunately, political will has been lacking and even institutional lethargy to undertake the recommendations made by experts in the field.
A more reassuring arm of the Government has been the armed forces. The principal factor for this has been the relative isolation from the politicisation of its environment, functioning and ethos. In cases of individual culpability pertaining to the rare wrong-doings of a soldier of the armed forces, care is taken to isolate them from institutional framework as discipline cannot be compromised.
Discipline, leadership and soldiering ethos are made to walk the talk in the armed forces. The finest example of this is the “officer-to-soldier” fatality ratio, which is the highest for any military in the world. It is the professional culture and standard that are at stake when murmurs abound of creeping politicisation even in the armed forces.
The onus is on the Government to contain this incident with speedy intervention, resolution and then usher in the much-delayed institutional reforms. No society can thrive where a revenue officer is burnt alive during the conduct of his/her duty, where police-lawyers vandalise public property, where policemen in uniform protest raising slogans, where suicide attempts for justice by lawyers are made. Indeed, forgotten from the recent limelight is the unprecedented tragedy of the war heroes of the armed forces sitting on roadside, asking for what was rightfully promised in OROP.
There is certainly a power play of institutional relevance, elbow-room and assertion at play. The fight over the parking lot was symbolic of the misplaced sense of entitlement that is at work with a few that shame their own institutions. This incident should lead to corrective introspection and cooling of tempers as opposed to a field day for those who have vested interest in TRPs, partisan concerns or perpetuating the existing systemic rot.
Writer: Bhopinder Singh
Courtesy: The Pioneer