Several people were injured as lawyers and police personnel clashed over a parking dispute at the Tis Hazari Court complex in New Delhi on Saturday afternoon. While a police car was set ablaze in the violence, sending a column of thick smoke into the city's already hazy sky, at least 20 more vehicles were vandalised.
Police said 20 cops and eight lawyers were injured in the clashes. A journalist belonging to a prominent news agency was also assaulted by irate protesters. Among the vehicles damaged were 12 motorcycles, eight prison vans and a police vehicle.
According to police, the violence was sparked off around 2 pm when some officers on duty objected to a lawyer parking his car in front of the lockup at the Tis Hazari court complex. The car, they said, was hindering the movement of vehicles bringing undertrials to the lockup.
"Soon, a large number of advocates crowded at the lockup. CCTV footage clearly shows that lawyers forcefully entered the lockup and began manhandling the police officers on duty," a statement issued by the Delhi Police read.
Police claimed that when senior district officers asked the lawyers to leave, they stormed the lockup and set some vehicles parked outside on fire. "In order to ensure the safety of undertrials, we fired in the air. The circumstances in which one of the lawyers suffered a bullet injury is being investigated," they said, adding that the undertrials were later shifted to Tihar Jail.
Irate lawyers barricaded themselves inside the court premises during the violence, preventing police and mediapersons from entering. Ten fire engines were summoned to douse the fire in the midst of the violence.
"We are custodians of the law too. We won't take it lying down if they misbehave with us," a lawyer told NDTV. Bar associations have condemned the incident and called for a one-day strike across all district courts in Delhi on Monday.
The Bar Council of Delhi accused the police of launching a "brutal and unprovoked attack" on the lawyers. "One lawyer is critical. A young lawyer was beaten in the lock-up. This is a clear case of police high-handedness, and all the cops involved should be dismissed and prosecuted. We stand with the lawyers," news agency PTI quoted its chairman KC Mittal as saying.
Assam Bar Council member Khushboo Verma, who was visiting the Tis Hazari court complex, alleged that she was attacked by policemen. "There were no women police personnel present," PTI quoted her as saying.
(With inputs from PTI)