Delhi: Courts

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Security issues


Aamir Khan, Why courts are criminals’ new playground, November 22, 2017: The Times of India

Delhi, courts- Karkardooma, Patiala, Dwarka and Tis Hazari, some brief facts
From: Aamir Khan, Why courts are criminals’ new playground, November 22, 2017: The Times of India

Despite Incidents Of Violence, Inadequate Policing And Lax Security Continue To Put Lives Of Visitors, Undertrials At Peril

Only six months separate the killing of an under-trial prisoner at the Rohini District Court in northwest Delhi on November 13 and another shooting in April this year. Such repeated occurrences in the lower courts of the capital jeopardise the lives of people visiting these complexes every day. Despite the threats, when TOI visited the district courts, most appeared to have inadequate policing and lax security.

Way forward

The Delhi High Court and District Courts Security and Disaster Management Committee was set up on October 17. Currently, the high court has oversight of security in all the courts and on November 22, a high-powered committee comprising high court justices and other stakeholders, including National Investigative Agency, CISF and the fire department will visit Rohini court to assess the security lapses and suggest new measures.


ISSUE Multilevel parking allows cars after hours and is a place for drinking

In 2011, security at this court complex was strengthened following intelligence inputs that senior Congress leader Sajjan Kumar, who was to appear in court in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots case, was the target of terrorists. It was established later that the RDX haul at Ambala in October 2011 was indeed part of a terror plan to bomb the complex.

Then, in December 2015, juvenile gunmen hired by a north-east Delhi gangster entered a courtroom here and opened fire on a target right in front of the judge. The incident led to the general public being required to procure an entry pass.

The heightened security was, however, short-lived. Not everyone adheres to this entry pass rule now. Also, associates of inmates or undertrials who come for court hearings procure multiple passes illegally. “That is why you see several gang members accompanying the accused when they appear in court,” said Pramod Nagar, president, Shahdara Bar Association, who practises at the Karkardooma court.

Not only did this reporter enter the premises without being frisked or put through a metal detector, but sources have pointed out the multilevel parking lot, with a capacity of about 900 cars, is a serious concern. Apparently violating all security norms, cars are allowed there beyond working hours. “Often, you can see people drinking and partying in the parking lot. Men come sometimes with women too,” a source claimed.

A visit to the parking lot showed empty liquor bottles strewn around. When this was brought to Nagar’s notice, he said, “I will have it looked into and take strict action against the guilty. This is not only illegal, but also puts the lives of thousands of people visiting the court in danger.”

The complex has three blocks housing the 80 courtrooms and four blocks of lawyers’ chambers. Every day, 12,000- 15,000 people visit the place. Police have sanctioned 82 guards there, but the numbers are not consistent, and Nagar complained, “Those who man the court premises are not efficient.” He said the court administration should not allow the entry gates to remain open beyond a stipulated time and the exit gates should be closed after 10pm.

The large number of gang members milling around exerts tremendous pressure on the security machinery. But concern isn’t too visible. “Only if there is a serious incident will the authorities wake up and tighten the loose ends,” muttered Nagar.


ISSUE Even basic security equipment like metal detectors missing

A 31-year-old undertrial was shot dead at the Rohini Court complex on November 12 by a teenaged assailant., who pumped three shots into him and then surrendered. The incident was one more in a growing tally of incidents in the court in the last few years. “Four, this is the fourth such incident to have taken place at this court,” confirmed Mahavir Sharma, president of Rohini Bar Association.

This glaring breach, coupled with the indifference of the authorities, raises serious concerns about the status of security at Rohini. Rakesh Chahar, honorary secretary of the bar association, said 63 policemen were deputed to the court three years ago. “However, the actual numbers have gradually reduced,” Chahar said. On November 12, there were just 12 policemen in the court complex.

The court is vulnerable to the several gangs that operate from the area, but some people pointed out that even basic security equipment such as metal detectors were missing. “We need more security and would like ITBP or CISF to be deployed for our safety,” Sharma said.

There are 63 courtrooms there and seven exits, where the security personnel are on the guard in intermittent stints. Daily, 10,000-15,000 people come to the court. “Whenever a criminal incident takes place, there is heightened alertness, but everything is back to square one with the passage of time,” sighed Chahar.

Lawyers have offered to be frisked and to show their identity cards at entry points. They would like strict checking with full-body scanners or proper frisking. “We will be happy if the local police are replaced with a superior security agency,” said one lawyer. “To working efficiently, we need a conducive atmosphere, which is sadly not the case here.”


ISSUE Height of the boundary wall, especially near the lock-up, does not deter exchange of items

There are two entry and exit points for public and three other gates meant for judges, exiting vehicles and lock-up vans here. “But the 65 sanctioned Delhi Police personnel are not enough to keep us safe when only half of them are present at any given time,” said B S Jakhar, president, Dwarka Bar Association. This wasn’t truer than last year when two armed men came to assassinate a witness but ended up firing at two members of the general public outside Gate No 3.

The boundary wall is not higher than 5 feet 10 inches, and with the grills at the top not covered, it is easy for anyone to pass over items to someone inside the lock-up area or vice-versa. If that was not alarming enough, the distance between the lock-up and the gate where the police vans ferrying prisoners arrive is 30 metres. The wall provides no guarantee against a security breach on this stretch.

With about 61 working courts, the daily average attendance is 10,000-12,000 persons. Among them are those accused of heinous crimes who must report to the court every day. For them, functional CCTVs are a must. “But 10-12 CCTVs installed by the police on the court periphery do not work,” informed Jakhar.

He also pointed out that electrical generators with 9,000 litres of fuel in them installed on the premises remain completely unmanned. “Anyone can put ignite the generators and blow up the court complex,” he said and suggested dedicated security for them.

The lawyers are willing to get their car boots checked at entry points and suggest that only vehicles bearing bar association stickers should be allowed to enter the complex.

Tis Hazari

ISSUE Inadequate police, bar association has deployed its own staff for security

Clearly, being the largest court complex in the city calls for round-the-clock vigil. But that is not the case. Spread across 27 acres, this court complex sees a high volume of cases from the central and west districts. For Jaiveer Singh Chauhan, who is the honorary secretary of the Tis Hazari Bar Association and secretary general of the coordination committee of all bar associations of Delhi, the biggest lack at Tis Hazari is adequate police deployment.

Chauhan’s concern is not unfounded. At one of the entry points for the general public, one can notice people entering without being frisked. This has implications for the sprawling complex with 350 courtrooms (185 are functioning) and around 4,000 lawyers’ chambers in addition to 2,000 seats for lawyers. There also are two offices of sub-divisional magistrates (SDM), a consumer forum, tehsil office, a malkhana and residential quarters for the SDM staffers.

Not surprisingly, this all adds up to a daily of footfall of 1 lakh. To cater to this, the sanctioned police strength is just 112, of which only around 80 are around every day. “There could be attacks at any time if the security is not beefed up,” warned Chauhan. To deal with the authorities’ indifference, the lawyers’ body here has partly taken the security responsibilities and deployed over 100 of its own staffers at different points in the court complex.

Despite various meetings of the bar association with police and the judiciary, concrete measures for installing a full-proof security system has never materialised. Chauhan disclosed that an exclusive passage for inmates being brought to the courts was finalised to curb their contact with the public, PWD was required to erect it. “The agency is still sitting on the proposal,” he rued.

The lawyers suggest a special provision for security after 4.30 pm. They also propose arming the nayab courts or police staffers of each courtroom to ensure safety inside the courtrooms. “This can instil fear among criminals coming here for a hearing with associates,” a lawyer said.

Patiala House

ISSUE People enter without being frisked or their baggage scanned

As in other court complexes, entry was possible in the Patiala House Courts at India Gate without being frisking or put through security checks and through the entry gate meant solely for vehicles. Despite the presence of armed security personnel, people seemed to be entering and leaving the premises through this gate at will.

The complex is not as crowed as the others. Santosh Mishra, president of the Patiala House Courts Bar Association, said, “The leak in security can occur at any court at any time, but given that this is a VIP area and the court here sees highprofile cases, the police is always on high alert.”

Mishra said the court was insulated from outside threat, but admitted, “I have noticed people freely moving inside and outside the premises. Even vehicles of outsiders are entering the complex.” She recommends proper security checks of everyone coming to the court and banning the cars of the public from the premises.


EXCEPTION Surprises with a three-layer security system overseen by a dedicated cell

The court at Saket is a pleasant surprise. It is the only one with a dedicated security cell, which has put in place a three-layered security system blocking any threat or untoward happening at the basic level. A source privy to the workings of the cell said that there was only one entry and exit point for the public. “Guards frisk everyone coming in and scan their baggage,” a source revealed. The other two security levels are at the entry to the courtroom building and the floor-level precautions with private security guards.

The administration has also constructed a tunnel from the newly built lock-up area to take under-trial prisoners to courtrooms. The oneof-a-kind initiative is not present in any other district court. Bar association president Rajpal Kasana said the lawyers’ block too has been secured by CCTVs and tight protection. “There will also be an under-vehicle scanning system functioning soon,” the source added.

With 9,000 people visiting this court and with over 80 courtrooms, CCTVs here play a crucial role in monitoring movement of people. To maintain a glitch-free functioning, the district judge, his colleagues, DCP (South) and executive engineers hold a monthly meeting on the state of affairs, the source confirmed.

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