The advocate community played a significant role in the movement for a separate Telangana for over six years till the dream of a new state was realised in June 2014. Today they are protesting on the roads, agitating against the Telangana Rashtriya Samithi-led government and demanding a law for their own protection.
Cutting across party lines, all 42,000-odd legal professionals in the state are insisting on the law. Lawyers, including those who support the ruling TRS party, placed their demand before TRS working president and state IT minister, KT Rama Rao, at a meeting on Tuesday (March 2). “I will bring the demand to the notice of the chief minister and work for it,” Rao told them.
For the TRS, advocates are an important constituency. The collective boycott of courts by lawyers for two months during the struggle for an independent state contributed in no small measure to the success of the movement.
However, three attacks on the fraternity in less than 10 days have sent shock waves among advocates in the state. The brutal murder of advocate couple Vaman Rao and Nagamani in Peddapalli district on February 17 was the most prominent. In the last video message recorded by people present at the time, Rao had named two people responsible for the attack. Shockingly, the two belonged to the ruling party. After the police arrested one, the TRS announced his suspension. But the other person named by Rao has not been arrested as yet and no action has been taken by the party either.
“We consider that the brutal murders have been sponsored by the state. The government failed to act against the culprits. Hence, there are apprehensions among the fraternity,” Narasimha Reddy, chairman of Bar Council of Telangana, told The Federal.
Three days later, another advocate, Siddharth Singh Chowdary, was allegedly attacked by his own clients at his office at Himayatnagar in Hyderabad. They were reportedly upset that Chowdary had lost a civil case despite pocketing a huge fee. The Narayanguda police arrested four suspects.
In Warangal town, district Bar Association general secretary E Venugopal Rao was attacked by two unidentified people when he went to an ATM on February 19. The police registered a case under Section 324 (voluntarily causing hurt with dangerous weapons) of the Indian Penal Code.
According to Bar Council member, Konda Reddy, there is a feeling of insecurity among advocates in the state since the recent attacks have not been properly dealt with by the police.
The advocates stressed that a protection law would create an element of fear among people that there would be consequences if they resort to physical attacks.
A relay hunger strike by the advocates to press for the law concluded on Wednesday.
“We are not saying all legal professionals are clean. But when there are issues, they need to be sorted out through legal means, not by physical attacks,” Narasimha Reddy said.
Noted advocate Chikkudu Prabhakar, who specialises in public interest litigations, said advocates were often subject to intimidation. “While I was appearing in public interest litigation cases at high court, I heard that many criminal cases were registered against me by the state with mala fide intentions and ulterior motives.”
Another advocate, K Karuna Sagar, who often deals with sensitive religious issues, said he had complained to the police about 20 threatening calls he had received from Hyderabad, West Bengal and outside the country.
“After the Vaman Rao couple murder, I filed a writ petition in the high court for protection. The Hyderabad police commissioner rejected my application for a weapons licence,” Sagar added.
Resolution sent to Bar Council of India
Narasimha Reddy said a resolution was also sent to the Bar Council of India to prepare a draft law at the national level. “We hope to organise the Bar Associations in all states to approach the Centre for a law on the lines of the ordinance promulgated for protection of doctors during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Reddy said.