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Hapur lawyers lathicharge incident: Allahabad High Court directs UP government to include retired judicial officer in SIT

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Owing to the ongoing lawyers’ strike on account of the incident occurring in District Hapur, the Allahabad High Court has directed the UP government to include a retired judicial officer on the SIT probing the incident.

The Division Bench of Chief Justice Pritinker Diwaker and Justice Mahesh Chandra Tripathi passed this order a suo motu PIL.

The Bar Council of UP has decided to abstain from judicial work on 30th August, 2023 and, thereafter, it has resolved to abstain from judicial work for a further period of three days i.e 4th, 5th and 6th September, 2023.

Ashok Singh, President, High Court Bar Association submitted that the lawyers are aggrieved by non-inclusion of any judicial officer in the SIT, which is already constituted by the State to look into the incident which occurred at Hapur.

He further submitted that the State action is wholly one sided inasmuch as atrocities were actually committed by the local administration and the local police had assaulted the lawyers.

It is urged that only one sided FIR has been lodged in the matter and despite the best efforts of the lawyers’ their FIR has not been lodged till date.

He further apprised the Court that the Chairman of the Bar Council of U.P and other members have gone to the District Hapur for further deliberations with the local Bar members, so as to ascertain the ground realities.

He has further placed reliance on the Press Note issued by the Bar Council of U.P dated 3.9.2023, wherein it was resolved that they will continue to abstain from judicial work on 4th, 5th and 6th September, 2023 and, thereafter, they will decide further course of action.

Ashok Singh said that if the SIT in the manner constituted is allowed to proceed it would cause great injustice to lawyers because the guilty police personnel shall be the judge in their own cause. Argument is that one cannot be a judge in his own cause and such an act would go contrary to principles of natural justice.

In this backdrop, the Court called upon Manish Goyal, Additional Advocate General to examine the feasibility of inclusion of a judicial officer in the SIT, so as to make the body more inclusive and transparent.

Manish Goyal on the instructions obtained from the State made a statement that the State Government has no objection in inclusion of a judicial officer in the SIT and has suggested names of three judicial officers of the rank of District Judge.

The Court said that the act of Bar Associations/Councils in resorting to strike has been frowned consistently by this Court and also by the Supreme Court as such acts on part of the lawyers does great damage not only to the litigants but it affects the administration of justice itself which is an important facet of our Constitutional democracy. The representative body of advocates have the right to raise grievances on behalf of their members but it has to be in a manner that the ultimate cause of justice itself is not defeated. As responsible citizens and soldiers of the justice dispensation system, we expect the lawyers and their representative bodies to be conscious of their obligations to the Society at large and act in a responsible manner.

The Court hope and trust that the Bar Council of Uttar Pradesh as also the respective Bar Associations across the State as well as the Court and its Bench at Lucknow shall introspect and act in due deference to the law laid down by the Supreme Court of India such that this Court is not required to take any unpleasant steps in the matter and forthwith resume their work.

The Court further said that doors of the Court would remain open in the event any unjust treatment is shown to be meted out to any person aggrieved.

The Court directed the State Government to include Hari Nath Pandey, Retd Principal Judge, Family Court, Lucknow as a member in the SIT, which is already constituted by the State Government to look into the incident in question. The SIT will proceed to conduct its enquiry and submit its report in a sealed cover at the earliest possible. An interim report shall be submitted before the Court by the next date fixed. The Superintendent of Police, Hapur shall ensure that the complaint lodged by the advocates of the incident is also duly registered and investigated as per law.

The Court has fixed the next hearing of the petition on September 15, 2023.

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