200 lawyers arrested, pandemonium in Tamil Nadu assembly (Lead)

February 20th, 2009 - 5:51 pm ICT by IANS  

Chennai, Feb 20 (IANS) Over 200 lawyers were arrested in Tamil Nadu Friday and the state assembly witnessed chaotic scenes, with opposition members being evicted over the clashes between advocates and policemen here a day earlier.
Law Minister S. Durai Murugan read out a statement under Rule 110 of the assembly that prohibits debate, blaming both the lawyers and policemen for the “unfortunate turn of events”.

Murugan appealed for calm and said the police were forced to use batons Friday, leading to bleeding injuries to over 25 lawyers who took part in the violent protests that led to the burning of a police post.

The incident was a fallout of what had happened in the premises of the Madras High Court Tuesday when some lawyers hurled rotten eggs at Janata Party president Subramanian Swamy for his opposition to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in Sri Lanka.

Legislators of the AIADMK, Communist Party of India, PMK and MDMK were evicted from the house following their slogan shouting and insistence on a debate.

“The denial of a debate on a serious law and order issue was a shameful chapter in the annals of democracy. Further, the incidents have shown that the constitution has failed in the state,” AIADMK floor leader and former chief minister O. Panneerselvam told reporters after being evicted with the rest of the opposition legislators.

While over 150 lawyers were arrested for defying prohibitory orders while taking out a procession to the secretariat, one kilometre away from the seat of the government, 50 others were held across the state for Thursday’s clashes and causing public disturbance.

Cases have been filed agains the lawyers under 307 Indian Penal Code, which among other charges includes attempt to murder.

Lawyers, however, continued to boycott courts all over Tamil Nadu protesting police action against their colleagues.

Police said lawyers set fire to government property, including public transport vehicles, and staged sit-in protests. Over 150 police personnel were injured in Thursday’s clashes.

Pitched battles between lawyers and police personnel were witnessed in the court premises for several hours Thursday.

Police officials contended that a section of lawyers demanding the arrest of the Janata Party president pelted stones at policemen - a charge denied by Madras High Court Advocates Association president S. Prabhakaran.

Speaking in the assembly, the law minister admitted that Judge Arumugha Perumal Adityan and several lawyers and policemen were injured in the clashes.

A three-member division bench of the Madras High Court, headed by acting Chief Justice S. Mukhopadhyay, has ordered a probe into the clashes by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).

Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi has also offered to meet Mukhopadhyay to discuss the issue and defuse the situation.

“Your cooperation is very essential for me and for this government… Though I am in hospital I will come and see you in an ambulance,” Karunanidhi wrote in a letter to Mukhopadhyay. The letter was released to the media.

The Madras High Court has also posted an advance bail petition filed by movie director Seeman to Feb 26 for allegedly exhorting people to resort to armed rebellion in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry in support of a separate homeland for Tamils in Sri Lanka.

While a police team from Puducherry is yet to arrest the director despite its presence here since Tuesday, fresh cases have been filed in police stations in the state on similar charges against Seeman, who has been arrested twice already on the same charges.

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