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INDIA – All India Black Flag Day: Police assault on lawyers and judges

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Twelve human rights organisations in India, including a FORUM-ASIA member People's Watch, have issued a statement condemning the police assaults on lawyers and judges in the premises of the Madras High Court, Chennai, on 19 February 2009.

The armed police charged baton and pelted stones at the lawyers. The police manhandled them, including women advocates who were also subjected to sexist offensive language. Even the judges who came out hearing the noise were not spared by the police. It is said that nearly 200 cars and two wheelers damaged in the police act.

The statement issued on 26 February expressed "shock" over this violence, now called "All India Black Flag Day" by the Bar Council of India.

On 17 February many members of the bar called for a boycott on the present conflict situation in Sri Lanka. The lawyers assaulted Subramanian Swamy, the president of Janata Party, who appeared in the court on the day; Swamy lodged a complaint against the lawyers. The police had tried to arrest the lawyers since then, and were waiting for them to appear at the court two days later. Some lawyers resisted the arrest and the clash took place.

The statement claimed that the violence "within the precincts of the Madras High Court and the offices of the lawyers for over four hours is unparallel in the history of independent India and has left the judiciary in Tamil Nadu in a quandary".

The organisations also criticised the government for not coming forward to "hold itself accountable for this mass police violence in a democratic institution meant to uphold the 'Rule of Law' and the enforcement of the Constitution".