How a post on Gyanvapi mosque has led to a standoff between advocates and police in Karnataka

The advocates are planning a "Bengaluru Chalo" protest on 22 February to lay siege to the Vidhana Soudha over an allegedly false FIR.

ByMahesh M Goudar

Published Feb 20, 2024 | 11:19 PMUpdatedFeb 20, 2024 | 11:25 PM

Karnataka Protest Ramanagara BJP Congress Gyanvapi Chandh Pasha

A simmering conflict between the Ramanagara Advocates Association and the district police has reached a boiling point, igniting a firestorm of protests and demands for justice.

What began as a dispute over a controversial social media post by Advocate Chand Pasha Ajoor has now spiralled into a full-fledged confrontation, with advocates alleging false FIRs and police misconduct against the lawyers.

As tensions mounted and grievances remained unresolved, the advocates announced the launch of a “Bengaluru Chalo” protest on Thursday, 22 February.

They are said to have decided to lay siege at the Vidhana Soudha, with advocates from across the state expected to participate in the protest.

This issue also caused a huge splash in the ongoing budget session of the Karnataka Assembly on Tuesday.

The Opposition parties, rallying behind by Leader of the Opposition (LoP) R Ashok, jumped into the well and staged a protest demanding the suspension of the Ijoor Police Station’s Sub-Inspector (SI) Syed Tanveer Hussain and action against advocate Chand Pasha.

Responding to this, Karnataka Home Minister Dr G Parameshwar stated in the House that an investigation has been launched, with a deputy superintendent of police (DSP)-rank officer entrusted with leading it.

He also clarified that a police officer could not be suspended without evidence or an investigation report to prove his guilt.

On Monday night, LoP Ashok and Karnataka JD(S) chief and former chief minister HD Kumaraswamy met the advocates and extended their support for the ongoing protest.

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The advocates’ protest

The members of the Ramanagara Advocates Association have been staging demonstrations since 9 February against the state government and district police for reportedly filing a false FIR against 40 advocates in Ramanagara town.

The tussle between advocates’ association and the district police started after the former learnt that an FIR had been registered against 40 advocates for reportedly abusing and assaulting the workers of the Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI), Dalit Sangharsh Samiti (DSS), and supporters of Chand Pasha Ajoor, according to the advocates.

Giving details about the episode, Ramanagara Advocates Association treasurer RC Manjesh Gowda told South First: “This incident began when an advocate named Chand Pash Ajoor put up a derogatory post on 3 February targeting a Varanasi District Court judge over permission to offer prayers at the Gyanvapi Mosque. He shared the post not only on Facebook but also other social media platforms, including WhatsApp groups.”

Gowda noted: “The association condemned it and asked him to go appeal against the Varanasi court order if he was not satisfied with the judgement. Then, several workers of a Hindu outfit not only filed a police complaint but also demanded that the association take action against Chand Pasha.”

He added: “On learning this, Chand Pasha met the district police and complained that his Facebook account was hacked, and that he never posted derogatory comments against any judge. Then, his supporters and members of various associations — including the DSS — flocked into the office of association and demanded that it not initiate any action against Pasha.”

The association treasurer continued: “His supporters tried to convince us that Pasha was innocent. While submitting a memorandum, one of his supporters demanded permission to deliver a speech. We did not allow them as such activities are not allowed inside the association office. They were not ready to listen.”

He noted that Pasha had a history of posting controversial remarks on social media platforms, and sometimes targeted judges of a specific community.

He recounted: “We reminded them the history of Pasha’s behaviour. But they were not convinced. They continued to create nuisance in the association office despite our requests. After some time, we sent them away stating that the decision against Pasha would be made in the general body meeting.”

Gowda said all the members in the general body meeting decided to expel Pasha from the association. A decision to this effect was taken on 6 February.

“We also filed a complaint against his followers for creating nuisance in the association office,” said Gowda.

“The next day, one of his supporters filed a complaint against 40 advocates, falsely claiming that we not only assaulted them but also hurled casteist remarks,” he added.

“Without making any preliminary inquiry, the police registered a false case against the 40 advocates on 7 February. This came to our notice after two days. Since then, we have been protesting against this atrocity by the police, demanding the suspension of the Ijoor SI,” explained Gowda.

He claimed: “When the police took the complaint against advocates, it should have been brought to the notice of either the district judge or the association president.” However, the police deny the existence of any such legal stipulation.

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‘Cannot suspend SI without probe’

While the advocates have been on an agitation demanding the suspension of SI Syed Tanveer, Ramanagara Superintendent of Police (SP) Karthik Reddy has asserted that action would be taken against the police officer based on the outcome of the investigation initiated against him.

At least five meetings between the District administration, the district police, and members of the advocates’ associations have been held to end the ongoing protest. However, the advocates did not take back their agitation even after the intervention of the district judge.

On condition of anonymity, a police officer attached to the Ramanagara District Police told South First: “The sole demand of the advocates is the suspension of SI Syed Tanveer.”

He confirmed that the five meetings had happened, and said: “The district administration has assured the advocates that action will be initiated against the police officer based only on the outcome of the ongoing investigation.”

Confirming what the state’s home minister has said, the officer noted: “The investigation is already underway under the headship of the Channapatna Sub-division DSP. But the advocates have stated that they will withdraw protest only if the police officer is suspended.”

He also clarified that there was no rule that mandated that the police officer notify either a district judge or the association president before filing a case against advocates.

“This rule will come into place only when the Advocates Protection Bill is implemented. There is no such law. These are all false claims. The police officer performed his duty. How can he refuse someone who has come to file a complaint?” asked the police officer.

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‘Bengaluru Chalo’

The members of the advocates’ association, in a meeting in Ramanagara on Tuesday, decided to launch a Bengaluru Chalo campaign on Thursday to lay siege to the Vidhana Soudha as part of their protest. Advocates from across the state are expected to participate in the protest.

Treasurer Manjesh Gowda told South First: “We have been protesting for the past 11 days demanding the suspension of the Ijoor Police Station SI Syed Tanveer. He filed a false FIR against 40 advocates.”

He claimed: “Some of the advocates named in the FIR were not even present on the court premises when the incident occurred. We have CCTV footage of the entire incident. Despite being given the facts, the police framed a few advocates in the FIR.”

He added that the association was ready to submit the CCTV footage of the incident to the police.

“The police targeted those advocates who were also workers of the BJP and the JD(S). They are targeting the advocates based on their political allegiances. We condemn this,” said Gowda.

He added: “Despite multiple requests from us, the deputy commissioner (DC) and SP did not suspend the police officer. They are trying to dissuade us by stating that they will file a B-report [a final report, often denoting the conclusion of the case] and won’t arrest any lawyer connected to the case.”

Gowda said: “We are not happy with their terms and conditions. We will continue to protest until justice is served. Hence, we have decided to launch the Bengaluru Chalo protest on 22 February.”

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Ruckus in Assembly

The leaders of Karnataka’s Opposition parties — the BJP and the JD(S) — flocked into the well of the Assembly on Tuesday and staged a protest demanding the suspension of the Ijoor SI.

LoP R Ashok raised this issue during the Zero Hour in the ongoing budget session in the Assembly.

“I and HD Kumaraswamy met the advocates on Monday. An advocate named Chand Pasha posted comments against the Varanasi district judge over the Gyanvapi Mosque order. He also hurled abuses at Hindus and the BJP as well,” he said.

“People filed complaints against him with the police and the advocates’ association. Some of his supporters abused lawyers. The advocates have also filed complaints but the police have registered a case but not initiated any action,” charged Ashoka.

Responding to this, Home Minister Dr G Parameshwara told the House: “The government has already entrusted the investigation to the Channapatna DSP. Action will be taken based on the outcome of the investigation.”

He added: “A police officer cannot be suspended without any valid evidence or reason. I don’t have any kind of pressure on this case.”

He also clarified before the House that the state government was did not take a favourable view of Chand Pasha.

“A case has been registered against Chand Pasha as well. It is far from the truth that the government is in favour of Chand Pasha. Is there the fault of the SI in this?” asked Parameshwara.

“He just accepted the complaint,” noted the minister, adding that the SI had only “performed his duties”.

“We, including the chief minister’s legal advisor AS Ponnanna, made all efforts to try and assuage the advocates, but they did not heed to us. The government is not protecting anyone in this incident. Action will be initiated against wrongdoers. We will also try to hold talks with the bar association,” said Parameshwara.