CHENNAI:While the Madras High Court has strongly disapproved of advocates misusing ‘lawyer’ sticker on vehicles, on the roads of Chennai, the police rarely issue a challan to motorists and drivers of these vehicles who break traffic rules.
Many policemen shy away from imposing a penalty on drivers of vehicles that bear the ‘lawyer’ sticker fearing that the advocates might gang up and create a ruckus. This is because in Tamil Nadu, lawyers and the police share an uneasy relationship, often leading even to clashes like the violence on the High Court campus a few years ago.
There has been an allegation for long, especially from the personnel on the ground, that those flaunting the stickers go scot-free primarily because of the apprehension among the lower-rung cops who do not want to be dragged to the court by the advocate.
“We either don’t stop those cars, or, in the rare occasions that we do, only advise them to comply with the rules on number plates, sun-control film, seat belt and the like, and let them go,” admitted a traffic sergeant attached to Kilpauk Enforcement Division.
He recalled an incident that happened a couple of months ago when a Maruti Swift car with a ‘lawyer’ sticker was flagged for sporting a sun-control film. The owner was a High Court advocate, who not only prevented them from removing the film, but also refused to pay the fine.
“When we seized the car and tried to move it away, he called up his peers from various city courts, who descended in no time. Even our seniors had to come down to broker peace. They even demanded an apology from the policeman who dared to stop the car,” the officer added.
However, Deputy Commissioner (Traffic-south) S Lakshmi told City Express that they are indeed taking action as per law. “Everyone is equal before the law. We do not treat lawyers any differently,” she said. According to Madras High Court Advocates Association president RC Paul Kanagaraj, it is not a case of lawyers misusing their position, but anti-social elements using the sticker to escape police checks. “Most of those who are not even enrolled as advocates, especially rowdy and anti-social elements, use this to evade the law,” he added.
Kanagaraj denied that legal professionals misused the position as being alleged by the police. “Advocates know the law and its nuances as to who can exercise what power in which situation. The police cannot treat advocates in the highhanded manner which they resort to in most cases,” he said.
A senior official with the city police struck a middle-path, pointing out that there were rogues in every profession. “It is same in the case of advocates as well. Not all advocates object when stopped for routine checks or any violation of traffic rules. It is only a small group who are not really practising advocates, who rake up such issues and cause ruckus,” the official added. Offering a different perspective, retired High Court Justice Chandru said, “The Motor Vehicles Act clearly states that no stickers other than the registration number of the vehicles should be pasted on the vehicle.”