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The Madras High Court on Friday called for a review of the security arrangements at the High Court campus, in view of various concerns raised while hearing a long-pending PIL concerning security at the High Court.
When the matter came up before a Bench of Chief Justice AP Sahi and Subramonium Prasad, the Bench also took critical note of an assembly convened at the High Court campus on Thursday, in which several lawyers and three former High Court judges took part.
A letter on record placed by the Deputy Commissioner of Police, High Court Security stated that a group of advocates, including senior lawyers, and retired judges, Justices Hariparanthaman, Kannan and Akbar, had assembled near the Aavin gate before walking in procession to the North Gate. As per the letter, the gathering finished the procession at the Dr Ambedkar statue at the High Court premises.
The police commissioner told the Court that the gathering refused to listen to the police officers on duty although they were advised against their “unauthorised activities.”
The reported incident prompted the High Court Bench to direct that the matter be taken up on the administrative side by the Security Committee of the High Court. The order passed on Friday reads,
“Having noticed the said incident reported, what is of more concern is that the incident involves and names three former High Court Judges of having entered the premises and joined the protest that was going on.
The gravity of the said incident, therefore, puts on guard the entire judicial system, as this may have a large impact on the future security measures that may be required to be undertaken by the High Court. The incident, therefore, requires an immediate concern to be taken up on the administrative side and we, therefore, request the Security Committee of the High Court to take up the matter urgently along with its suggestions and report the matter back for taking appropriate action on the judicial side or otherwise by the next date fixed.”
During the hearing, the Court was also appraised of certain other concerns by Advocate General Vijay Narayan and the Assistant Solicitor General (ASG) of India.
AG Narayan urged the Court to consider the need for arrangements to be made so that clients of lawyers who only have offices within the High Court campus may be able to enter the lawyers’ chambers.
Ordinarily, litigants are only allowed access inside the Court campus on dates when their cases are listed. The AG pointed out that this creates a difficulty for clients whose lawyer’s chambers are located only within the High Court campus.
The Court was told that there are about 500 lawyers’ chambers within the High Court campus and that some of them do not have any separate offices.
The ASG raised concerns regarding the need for more standardisation, coordination and synchronisation of security arrangements presently existing.
He also told the Court that the temporary deployment of the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) on campus and the absence of certainty in this regard is causing a number of personnel deployment concerns.
The CISF have been deployed at the Madras High Court campus on a temporary basis. However, their term of service has been extended from time to time through interim orders passed by the Madras High Court, the last of which was issued in October last year.
In turn, the AG told the Court that if a permanent arrangement is to be devised, it may require a coordinated deployment and resolution of financial aspects, given that for the time being, the state government is bearing the costs of deploying the CISF.
In view of these submissions, the Court has now directed a joint meeting of various authorities, including the High Court Security Committee and top officials of the CISF and Tamil Nadu police, to chart out the future course with respect to security arrangements at the High Court campus.
"Keeping in view the aforesaid concerns that have been expressed and also the incident reported and extracted hereinabove, we also request the Security Committee to deliberate upon these issues and also coordinate with the Director General of Police, State of Tamil Nadu as well as the high-ranking officials of the Central Industrial Security Force, including local Commandant, for evolving concrete suggestions in order to crystallise the security arrangements preferably on a permanent basis. The exercise may, therefore, be undertaken at the earliest.”
The matter has been fixed for further hearing on March 2. Before parting with the order, the Court has also cautioned media outlets as follows,
“The reporting agencies are instructed not to report anything beyond what is recorded in the order, so as to create any misconception or confusion.”
[Read the Order]