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Advocates Vandalise Madhya Pradesh HC After Lawyer’s ‘Suicide’

Lawyer Anurag Sahu, who was representing a suspended inspector accused of rape, allegedly committed suicide over an alleged argument with a Judge and a senior assistant lawyer over a bail plea.
Lawyers protesting at the High Court in Jabalpur, Madhya Pradesh

Lawyers protesting at the High Court in Jabalpur, Madhya Pradesh. Image Courtesy: NDTV

Bhopal: A group of advocates went on a rampage at the Madhya Pradesh High Court (HC), in Jabalpur, on September 30 afternoon hours after a 40-year-old lawyer Anurag Sahu allegedly committed suicide over an alleged argument with a Judge and a senior assistant lawyer over a bail plea a day earlier.

Sahu was representing Sandeep Ayachi (50), a suspended town inspector of Jabalpur’s Gorakhpur Police Station accused of raping a fellow cop on the pretext of marriage and booked under Sections 376 (2)N, 294, 506 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

After being on the run for days, Ayachi was nabbed on September 11 and sent to jail. Subsequently, Sahu, with the assistance of senior counsel Manish Datt, appealed for Ayachi’s bail.

On September 29, a Bench of Justice Sanjay Dwivedi hearing Ayachi’s bail plea received two letters from the alleged rape victim which it found disgraceful and tantamount to contempt of court.

In a two-page order issued, the court mentioned the letters in the order saying, “Astoundingly, two envelopes containing letters were received by this court relatable to the case at hand in the name of the complainant. She is allegedly stating against the counsel for the applicant, which also sprinkles disgrace to this court. Indeed, the language of the letters insinuates that it is not only impinging the judicial proceedings but tantamount to contempt of court.”

The court added: “Alas! If such type of activity is left unattended, it will recur in the future casting a slur upon the judicial system. In the pursuit of finding the real culprit and to lift the curtain from the unruly face, I deem it apposite to get conducted a probe into the matter...”

The court ordered the probe and gave September 30 as the next date of hearing. According to the sources, arguments started after the Judge intended to order a probe of the letters. At the next hearing, Sahu did not turn up and Datt represented Ayachi.

Fellow advocates and members of the state bar council claimed that Sahu met Ayachi’s family members at his house on the morning of September 30 and allegedly hanged himself hours after they left. It was not clear which remark allegedly upset Sahu so much that he committed suicide.

The Jabalpur Police is investigating the case. “We have registered a suicide case in connection with Sahu’s death and are taking statements from his family members and associates to find the actual reason for his suicide,” Shailendra Mishra, town inspector of Adhartal Police Station, told Newsclick. Sahu’s house falls under the Adhartal Police Station.    

Asked if the deceased lawyer left behind a suicide note, Mishra said that the matter will be probed.

The news of Sahu’s death spread like wildfire and a violent protest broke out inside the HC. The protesting lawyers first went to the hospital and brought his body into Courtroom No. 25 of the Judge, Sanjay Dwivedi. On not finding him there, they vandalised the courtroom and moved towards the Chief Justice’s court and vandalised it as well. Subsequently, a group of lawyers set Datt’s chamber on fire while blaming him for Sahu’s death.

When Civil Line Police lathi-charged the lawyers, they started a sit-in protest demanding action against Dwivedi. A Special Task Force of the police was deployed to protect the court.

The following day, the State Bar Council boycotted court proceedings across the state to express its disappointment over the suicide and police action. 

The Bar Council will write to chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan demanding action against the policemen who mercilessly lathi-charged the advocates,” RK Singh Saini, vice-chairman of State Bar Council and president of Jabalpur Bar Council, told the media.

Civil Lines Police Station town inspector HR Kourav told Newsclick that the lawyers attacked the police when they tried to stop them from committing arson. “Two to three cops were injured. Two FIRs have been registered in connection with the incident.”

More than 60-70 unknown advocates were booked under Sections 147, 149, 332, 333 and 427 of the IPC for vandalising the court premises and attacking public servants on duty. Another FIR was lodged against more than 100 unknown advocates under Sections 147, 149 and 353 of the IPC for setting Datt’s chamber on fire.

A senior HC lawyer familiar with Sahu’s case told Newsclick while requesting anonymity he was a hardworking, self-made advocate who has earned a good name in a short time. “As many as 12 juniors were working under him. He was strong-headed and I doubt that he committed suicide because of an alleged argument with a Judge or senior lawyer. There must be some other reasons which are now part of the police investigation,” he alleged.

“Many lawyers tried to settle scores with Judges and lawyers using Sahu’s suicide. Setting Manish Datt’s office on fire and vandalising courtrooms is part of that plot,” the lawyer added.

RK Singh Saini, vice-chairman, State Bar Council, said over the phone that Sahu was “being harassed by some officers and advocates. It’s unclear why he took such an extreme step hours after meeting with Ayachi’s family. The CCTV cameras of his home were also shut on the day of the incident”. “We will hold a meeting of bar councils after the Dussehra holiday to decide further course of action.”

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