Even in relatively calm South India, lawyers have now disgraced themselves by going on a rampage.
Yesterday, Friday, the 2nd of March, there was apparently a free-for-all in the Bangalore courts. Lawyers physically attacked reporters and police officers, stoned TV vans, and so on.
In response, all the major Kannada news channels — TV9, Suvarna News, Udaya News, Janashri, Samaya, Public TV, and News 24 — blacked out their screens for two minutes at 8 pm, and broadcast the same message: “We strongly protest the violence unleashed on journalists by lawyers.” Why ever did they not include a protest regarding violence against the police?
Anyway, I hope the news channels will do more than merely protest for two minutes. I hope they will insist that the guilty be charged and duly punished.
In the larger national context> of course it is terrible that reporters were injured and TV vans smashed, however what's really important is that, as this happened in the courts in Bangalore, which is the IT capital of the world, India's legal system has suffered incalculable reputational damage - and even more so has the reputation of our country.
Apparently, even our lawyers don't want to uphold the dignity and sanctity of the law.
So the question is: what action(s) is our national legal profession and legal system going to take to restore the dignity of the law in the country?
I suggest, as a minimum:
A. The judicial enquiry which has been promised have as its terms of reference the speedy *let us say within one week) gathering of all available evidence regarding who the perpetrators were. A week is not a long time, but we don't need exhaustive evidence, we just need sufficient evidence.
B. All perpetrators be brought to trial in a specially-constituted court say 3 weeks from now.
C. The guilty lawyers be held collectively responsible for the financial damage, and for the compensation that should be paid to all journalists and police officials who were injured.
D. All guilty lawyers should be immediately suspended from undertaking any sort of legal or law-related work for a period of one year, after which they should be allowed to return to practice with a strict warning that any repetition of such behaviour will result in their law degrees and legal accreditation being stripped from them,and their being banned permanently from ever practicing law again.
But I can hear someone arguing that lawyers have a justified complaint about one-sided coverage by the media.
If so, then lawyers, more than anyone else, should know how to use the law to address that problem - and, if they feel that the law is inadequate, then they should propose and work for better laws and better implementation, not tarnish and pull down the legal system in our country.
If the legal system breaks down, then everything will break down.
As a country, we have very few competititve advantages in a global context, and our legal system is one of them. Impugn or destroy that, and you attack our ability to attract international capital for investment in the country.
So if you attack our legal system, you attack our nation.