CHENNAI: Twice as many people blame the lawyers than the police for the violence at the Madras High Court last week. It is not surprising then that public opinion about lawyers is so low that half the people polled in a survey commissioned by The New Indian Express did not want their children to become lawyers, while only one-fifth did.
The violence erupted on February 19, when the police went to the High Court to investigate the egg pelting two days earlier of Subramanian Swamy. A clash between lawyers and police ensued, which carried on the next day, and which has forced the closure of courts since.
The New Indian Express survey of 500 Chennaiites, carried out by research organisation C fore, makes it clear that the public sees the lawyers as the culprits of the current standoff between the executive and the judiciary.
Respondents overwhelmingly disapproved of the egg pelting. Some lawyers have, post-clashes, asserted that the community also did not approve of the egg pelting, but this appears to have got drowned in the din.
What has etched itself in the public mind, rather, has been the trade-union-manner in which the lawyers reacted when the police tried to take action in the egg-pelting incident. A third of those polled said the culprits should have been arrested immediately; and there were almost as many responses favouring the debarring of lawyers, as there were favouring a probe by the acting chief justice.
The public antipathy towards the lawyers can be gauged by the fact that exactly twice as many respondents to The New Indian Express poll favoured police action at the courts, as those who approved of the police inaction during the caste-based rampage by law students in November.
If anything, the public’s message to lawyers is clear: No one should presume to be above the law.
Who is responsible for Thursday’s violence at the Madras High Court?
The police 17
Both are equally guilty 49
The lawyers 34
Twice as many people blame the lawyers as those who blame police.
What should have been the proper course of action after the egg-pelting?
The lawyers responsible be stripped of their licence to practice law 21
The acting Chief Justice of the High Court investigate the matter 25
Police arrest the culprits immediately 32
The lawyers association investigate the matter 10
The matter should have been forgotten 12
Why are the lawyers resorting to strike?
To bring attention to the plight of Sri Lankan Tamils 19
To protest high-handed police action 69
To protest inadequate facilities in the High Court 3
None of the above 9
How do you feel about some lawyers pelting Subramaniam Swamy with eggs inside a courtroom?
Have no view 19
Police action to quell the lawyers unrest at high court 38
Police inaction when law college students went on the rampage 19
Did not support either of the options 43
Do you want your son/daughter to be a lawyer?
Don’t know/Can’t say 31
Methodology: C fore conducted the survey in Chennai on 23 and 24 February, 2009. A questionnaire was sent to 500 people of different socio-economic categories. Forty-one per cent were women. All figures are in percentages.