A group of Madras High Court advocates have spoken against the actions taken by the Chennai police against anti-CAA “Kolam” protests.

A group of Madras High Court advocates have spoken against the actions taken by the Chennai police against anti-CAA “Kolam” protests.
On 29th December 2019, Shastri Nagar police detained Gayatri Khandhadai, a lawyer and human rights defender, for drawing “kolam” against the Citizenship Amendment Act. Three other lawyers who had visited her to render legal assistance were also detained. The police subsequently registered an FIR against them. 
On January 1, the Commissioner of Police, Chennai A.K.Viswanathan held a press conference where he made remarks against ‘Kolam’ protests. He also alleged that Gayatri Khandhadai has connections with Pakistan. He later admitted that no investigation had preceded this statement. Following the Commissioner’s statements, Gayatri had to face online bullying and harassment.
In this backdrop, a group led by prominent lawyers R Vaigai, Sudha Ramalingam, T Mohan, Elizabeth Seshadri etc, said :
“The reckless statement of the Commissioner of Police, given the prevalent lynchmob atmosphere, has a provocative effect and has exposed Gayatri to harm and endangered her life and safety. Gayatri was not enquired or given any opportunity to defend herself before the Commissioner of Police named her and publicly cast aspersions about her affiliations. It is unbecoming of the highest functionary of the police force to issue statements without proper verification and investigation. The press conference itself appears to have been carefully orchestrated, complete with video and other materials to discredit the protest and defame the protesters who are employing constitutional means to peacefully express their dissent”.
The lawyers also alleged that the Commissioner was acting with malice to target those advocates who had fought a case in 2009 in Madras High Court against police excesses which resulted in the suspension of Viswanathan.  Gayatri Khandhadai and T. Mohan, one of the lawyers who were detained, were part of the team of lawyers that assisted Senior Advocate R. Vaigai in that case.
They called upon the Commissioner to “immediately retract his statements regarding Gayatri Khandhadai and the other protesters and render unconditional apology to them”. They also demanded that he be removed from the investigation.
“The State machinery is being deployed to systematically suppress free speech and stifle dissent of our citizens. By using ‘law and order’ as a blanket excuse to deny permission without application of mind, to hold peaceful protests against CAA, the State is abdicating its responsibility to facilitate the democratic exercise by its citizens to express themselves. This, in effect, criminalises all protest and renders protesters vulnerable to police action. Multiple FIRs have been registered against thousands of protesters who participated in various peaceful protests in the past weeks. This is a mockery of constitutional rights and values since the police have admitted that these protests were peaceful with no law and order implications. The State is abusing its powers and using the criminal justice administration to intimidate and silence protests”, stated the lawyers’ group, which also included Advocates C Vijayakumar, Anna Mathew, D Geetha, V Suresh, D Nagasaila, R Diwakaran, S Devika, Maimoona Badshah, A J Jawad, Habeeba Anees, Poongkhulali B, Chethana V, Akhila R S , Annapoorni G, Nivedita, M Shreela, Thriyambak Kanna, N S Tanvi etc.
Madras HC lawyers had also staged a protest march against CAA-NRC on Friday.

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