“Rising insecurity”: MP HC takes suo motu cognizance of a lawyer murder in Mhow, asks state to explain its stance about formulating a Witness/Advocate Protection policy [Read Order]

“Rising insecurity”: MP HC takes suo motu cognizance of a lawyer murder in Mhow, asks state to explain its stance about formulating a Witness/Advocate Protection policy [Read Order]

The High Court of Madhya Pradesh has taken suo motu cognizance of the incident which led to murder of Advocate Yogesh Garg. A bench of Chief Justice A. M. Khanwilkar and Justice Sanjay Yadav asked the state to explain its position as to whether it is or it is not in favour of formulating a protection policy, for extending protection to witnesses in sensitive cases and also to deserving Advocates during the period of investigation and/or trial of specified crimes

Advocate Yogesh Garg was allegedly shot dead in Mhow on the night of November 18. According to initial investigation, the lawyer was creating legal hurdles for one Thakur in his land dealings.

Rising insecurity ?

The court also noted that in the year 2013, the President of the Bar Council, Ujjain wing, was shot dead and in December, 2014, another Advocate was abducted and murdered owing to property dispute case. A few months ago, a lawyer was murdered in Bhanpura Town of Mandsaur District.

Explain stance on formulating witness/advocate protection policy

The bench also observed that it has been a long pending demand of the legal fraternity in the State of Madhya Pradesh, to formulate a mechanism for extending protection to deserving lawyers and the highest Authority of the State is stated to have promised framing of Lawyers’ Protection programme, in 2012. The Court has asked the state to explain its position regarding the said promise made.

The court said that the State must also give a serious thought to the judgment of the Apex Court in the case of Zahira Habibullah Sheikh V. State of Gujarat (2006) 3 SCC 374, wherein it expressed its concern about the witnesses turning hostile or made to depose in a manner which results in rendering truth and justice to become casualty for which it has become necessary to protect the witnesses involved in atleast sensitive cases involving those in power, who have political patronage and could wield muscle and money power and leave no stone unturned to avert trial getting tainted and derailed.

Investigation by an independent agency

The court has also asked the State police to explain the circumstances resulting in mishandling of the complaint made by the Advocate to the local police at Mhow. The investigation of the concerned crime also needs to be done by an independent Agency or senior police officials and not left to the local police, the court added.

Boycotting Courts amounts to contempt

The court also came down heavily on the State Bar council which, following this murder episode, had announced boycott of the Courts on 24.11.2015 and said : “it is not only the State but all the citizens of this country and more so the members of the legal fraternity - who are officers of the Court, have a bounden duty to observe the Rule of Law.” The bench added that this extreme step taken by the Bar Council exposed the Advocates on Record appearing in the concerned cases before the Court on the given day, to suffer the consequences of having committed aggravated contempt of Court. The Court has issued notices to State Government, State Bar Council, BCI and Superintendent of Police, to respond to this Suo motu Writ-petition.

Read the order here.