Allahabad HC orders inquiry by CJM into police ‘assault’ on lawyer

The Allahabad High Court on Tuesday directed the chief judicial magistrate of Etah district to conduct an inquiry into an allegation that the police assaulted a lawyer in the district on December 21, and harassed and humiliated his relatives.

Taking cognizance of a letter from the Bar Council of Uttar Pradesh that requested the court to take appropriate action in the incident, a Division Bench of Chief Justice Govind Mathur and Justice Saumitra Dayal Singh directed the CJM to gather relevant facts, including audio-visual evidence and electronic documents, and submit a report by the next hearing on January 8. The court said the Chief Justice’s Secretariat had also received a letter on the matter from the High Court Bar Association. Certain other advocates have also sent emails to the court in protest.

In its letter, the Bar Council identified the lawyer who was allegedly manhandled as Rajendra Sharma.

“Having considered the facts stated in the letters referred above, we deem it appropriate to have a complete report of the incident through Chief Judicial Magistrate, Etah,” observed the judges.

The court directed the district magistrate and the senior district superintendent of police to cooperate with the inquiry and supply all relevant facts and documents.

According to the police, Rajendra Sharma, a government advocate, was involved in a dispute with another lawyer, identified as Avinash Sharma, over a house in Katra in the Kotwali police station area.

Rajendra Sharma has been living in a portion of the house on rent for the last three decades. He claims to have purchased the house in 2013. But, according to the police, Avinash Sharma claims to have purchased the portion of the house in which another tenant, Rekha Sharma, lives.

City Circle Officer Raj Kumar Singh said that on December 21 Rekha Sharma went to Agra for work and asked one Gaya Prasad Jatav to take care of the house in her absence. Rajendra Sharma allegedly arrived there in the evening and assaulted Prasad. The government lawyer also allegedly made casteist remarks about Prasad and threw out Rekha Sharma’s belongings.

When the woman returned, Rajendra Sharma and his family allegedly did not allow her to enter the house. Rekha Sharma then went to the City Kotwali police station and got an FIR lodged in the matter.

When a team of district officials and the police visited the spot to conduct inquiries, Rajendra and others allegedly opened fire and pelted stones at the officials from the terrace of the house. According to the police, a stray bullet hit local resident Arbaz, 22, in his stomach. He was rushed to a hospital, which referred him to a medical facility in Agra. The police said doctors had told them that Arbaz was now stable.

When Rajendra and the others did not stop pelting them with stones despite warnings, the police climbed to the terrace from the building’s rear side. The police claimed they used “needful force” to bring the situation under control, and even had to break open a door.

They arrested Rajendra Sharma and six of his family members, and booked them on various charges, including attempted murder. The police also seized the lawyer’s licensed gun. Three women named as accused in the case are now out on bail, according to officials.

A government official said an inquiry, ordered after videos and photographs showing alleged police atrocities went viral, was still on.

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