If those responsible for the 1984 anti-Sikh riots had been punished back then, India would have been different now, the Delhi High Court on Monday said, while asking the police to take action against those involved in the recent attacks on properties of lawyers.
A bench of Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice C Hari Shankar observed that the lack of punishment in such cases signifies the "beginning of the rot" in the system.
"If those responsible for 1984 riots had been punished, India would have been different," the bench said and expressed concern over the safety of the common man on the street if senior lawyers were being attacked.
When the bench was informed that the police was in the process of lodging FIRs in connection with the incidents, that occurred on January 4, 8 and 22, the bench questioned the response time and asked it to expedite the forensic analysis of the evidence gathered from the site of the attacks.
The lawyers who have been at the receiving end of the arson attacks are those who have represented a woman lawyer who was allegedly assaulted by police officers and dragged out of the house she was residing in after a stalking case was lodged against her by a woman purportedly over a property dispute.
When the bench was informed that the entire issue emanated from a property dispute as a land mafia was allegedly involved in it, the court remarked, "It cannot be that the land mafia has grown to become a hydra."
On January 9 and 22, arson attacks were made on the properties and cars of senior advocates Vikas Pahwa and Kirti Uppal, who is also the president of the Delhi High Court Bar Association (DHCBA), by using inflammable substances.
Uppal's Hyundai Tucson car that was parked outside his house in south Delhi's Nizamuddin West was set on fire by unidentified miscreants.
On January 4, two cars -- a Maruti Swift and a Honda Amaze -- parked in the east Delhi house of advocate Ravi Sharma were allegedly torched by unidentified persons.
The bench headed by the Acting Chief Justice issued notice to the police in the plea moved before it for a court-monitored SIT probe into the incidents and listed it for hearing tomorrow when the agency is expected to come with an order appointing a special investigator to probe the case.
Earlier in the day, the bench had on its own taken up the issue of the attacks on lawyers as a PIL and sought an action taken report from the police. The plea for court-monitored SIT probe was moved before it later.
The "inevitability of punishment" acting as a deterrent and concern for the safety of citizens of the city was also expressed by another bench of Justices Siddharth Mridul and Deepa Sharma which was hearing the woman advocate's matter in relation to her assault on December 18 last year allegedly by some police officers.
The proceedings before this bench in the first half of the day, witnessed high drama as some of the lawyers beat up an unknown individual inside the court room suspecting him to be the person who had torched the vehicles of the senior advocates.
Frowning upon the incident inside the courtroom, the bench headed by Justice Mridul said, "We cannot allow the court to turn into an 'akhada' (wrestling ground). We are not going to permit this."
It also rapped the Delhi Police for the lack of any progress in the probe into the arson attacks, saying "if you are unable to handle law and order in the city, let us know".
"We are concerned that you have an arsonist on the loose in the capital who is throwing fire bombs and setting cars ablaze. What are you waiting for? A fatality? Is anybody safe? Are we safe in the courtroom? Right to be safe in our homes is inviable. We are not going to permit this," the bench said.
It further said that only deterrent against such incidents was the "inevitability of punishment".
The bench also comprising Justice Sharma said, "It was alarming that it was so easy to do something like this in the city of Delhi."
The police, represented by standing counsel Rahul Mehra and advocate Tushar Sannu, assured both the benches that necessary steps and action would be taken immediately and protection would also be provided to all those persons, connected with the case, who face any threat to their safety.