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Following the shootout and killing of jailed gangster Jitender Gogi inside Delhi's Rohini Court hall, advocates have filed a plea with the Delhi High Court, requesting the Delhi Police and the Bar Council of Delhi to take immediate measures ensuring the security of Delhi district courts.
The plea has been filed by advocate Deepa Joseph through advocates Robin Raju and Blessan Mathews.
Another advocate, Vishal Tiwari, has filed an application with the Supreme Court on similar grounds, seeking directions for the Union of India and state governments to take urgent steps towards the security of the subordinate courts.
‘Protection Is Critical but Should Stay Away From Knee-Jerk Reactions’
Tiwari has suggested that the production of dangerous criminals and gangsters before the trial court should be through video conferencing, instead of producing them physically.
But would this be a solution to prevent this kind of dangerous situation?
Senior advocate Satish Tamta, a veteran criminal law practitioner in the Delhi courts, agrees that as a preventive measure, these physical productions at the courts can be avoided and anything that is short of trial should be done virtually.
"These things can be totally be avoided if the cops take preventive measures. Why bring such a man who is known to be risky and notorious, to the courts, it is not necessary. Why let him loose like this," said Tamta.
However, human rights lawyer and activist Vrinda Grover sounded a note of caution. "I would be very wary of making a suggestion like this," she said, adding that suggestions like these may result in misuse by the authorities, and that one should stay away from knee jerk reactions at this point.
""In the long run it will become about not presenting the accused unless their presence is absolutely necessary. The answer is not to take away appearances, or to block the entire public out, because for most poor people, particularly after COVID, we know that there are no physical meetings happening, so the only time family members, lawyers are able to meet is actually just this one occasion."" - Vrinda Grover
The power to decide which accused should be brought to court and which should not would end up being dependent on police assessments of who is a risk, which she believes is risky. "When the questions of who is high risk will come, they will say all Bhima Koregaon people or all Delhi Riots accused are high risk," she said, "so giving this power or discretion to the cops will not help."
‘Scary That Assailants Could Enter the Court So Easily’
The plea in the Delhi High Court raises concerns over the safety of advocates who practice in district courts, and states:
"Article 21 preserves the right to life and Article 19(1)(g) that grants the right to practice profession gets violated in a tense and unsafe atmosphere."
Gogi's shooting took place during the work day inside the Rohini court on Friday. The assailants, who were dressed as lawyers, attacked Gogi when he was brought inside the court room for a hearing.
"The ease with which the assailants entered into the court premises in the attire shows that they were well aware that it is easy to get access into the court by being in a lawyers attire," the plea adds.
"This is very scary. When we were seeing it I was telling my juniors, imagine one of you could have been there," said Grover.
Lack of Metal Detectors, Security and Ground Intelligence
In addition to the suggestions on production of dangerous criminals and gangsters, the petitioner has suggested that all the police personnel at court entrances should verify ID Cards of all lawyers who enter the court premises and restrict who can attend hearings.
However, steps like these might set the default to no one entering the court. "No body will be at the hearings, the family would not come . So let's not go down that route, that's very unhelpful," said Grover.
The right questions to ask would be, how were firearms brought into the premises and what is the state of ground level intelligence, both she and Tamta advised.
"The concern is how did these people enter with firearms, what kind of security is ensuring that no weapon is brought in, even if I am dressed as a lawyer there can be metal detecters so that arms are not brought in," Grover added.
Tamta noted that this happened despite existing security measures, and that this points to vulnerabilities which are currently too easy to exploit. "There are metal detectors, every building has them, checking is there but there are so many entry points one can easily skip. They do recce before these things," he said.
Not the First Incident of Firing Inside the Courts
What makes the Gogi incident so worrying is that this shooting is not the first incident of firing inside court premises in Delhi.
As noted in the petitions to the courts,
""In the recent past there have been incidents of shooting in the Dwarka Court, a firing near the Saket Court in May 2019 and earlier in 2017, an undertrial was killed after being shot inside the Rohini Court Complex. A shocking incident similar in line to the incident in Rohini Court was the killing of a Delhi Police head constable when four armed assailants open fired inside a courtroom at Karkardooma Court Complex in the year 2015."" -
The Chief Justice of India, NV Ramana, has expressed concerns at the incident and spoken to the Chief Justice of the Delhi High Court in this regard.
The Supreme Court is considering another suo motu case relating to security of judicial officers and court premises, which was taken up in the wake of the killing of Jharkhand Judge Uttam Anand in Dhanbad on 28 July.
(With inputs from Live Law)
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