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Clash of the Titans—two wrongs, one right?

Huzaima Bukhari

“Under all wrongdoing lies personal vanity of the feeling that we are endowed and privileged beyond our fellows”―James Stephens, Irish novelist and poet

If someone has willfully committed a wrong, it should be admitted and the victim must be duly indemnified. At least this is the most one can do as a human being. Be that as it may, man has a queer way of defending his mistakes. Our courts are evident of this fact. After all, majority of the cases that reach these judicial forums for adjudication are on account of a transgression committed by someone against whom a plaintiff files a petition that is defended by the respondent. One is accused while the other becomes the defendant. This is how the system works. The judge decides who is right and settles the wrong by either punishment for the miscreant and/or compensation for the injured party. No judge would be so indiscreet to tell both the parties to resolve the matter by fighting a duel out in the open.  

Besides, the society in general, (particularly its elders and the wise) does not tolerate mischief mongers and not only condemns their foul play but at times throws them out from its midst, forcing them to live in isolation. Since every human being is dependent on other human beings, this kind of a punishment is enough to make one’s life absolutely miserable. In such social set-ups where revenge is considered as a right, there is usually bloodshed and an overall feeling of restlessness never knowing on whose behest a tragedy may strike. In contrast to these bleak pictures, where law and order reign supreme without any form of discrimination, there is relatively an atmosphere of peace and contentment, with the members both prospering and happy.

This is a prelude to what transpired on 11 December 2019, another black day for our country when a group of lawyers, custodians of rule of law, ironically played havoc with law and order of the State and ferociously attacked the Punjab Institute of Cardiology (PIC), ruthlessly damaging public and private property, harassing the staff, patients and their attendants, committing the most criminal act of causing the death of at least four critical patients undergoing medical care who were left unattended when the emergency ward was barged in. The whole episode, if objectively viewed, depicts maliciousness, lack of propriety, unrestrained behavior and a total dearth of patriotism where there is no regard for the country, its people and its property. The most painful aspect of it all is that this was not the doings of some disgruntled uncivilized youths but that of mature, educated and professional adults.

What exactly happened that triggered this impassioned display of vandalism? Of course, as always happens in the aftermath of such incidents, the government officials who awake only after everything is ransacked while they are in deep slumber when something is about to occur and even when it is in progress, have promised to investigate the matter. By the time a conclusive report is compiled a lot of water would have flown under the bridge that would diminish the full impact of this violence. The guilty would be transformed to innocence because we do not have a system that can instantly adjudicate these sorts of atrocities despite ample evidence.

Anyways, it all started on 24 November 2019 when a lawyer had his mother admitted to the hospital. Allegedly, he was beaten up by the staff and doctors there for demanding some privileged treatment which was most probably denied. To make matters worse, his colleagues whom he had called for support were also given a thrashing. Although both parties lodged first information reports (FIR) with the police, no lawyer, doctor or any of the staff members was arrested. Meanwhile, the stalwart representatives of each group reached a compromise apparently bringing the whole issue to an end but, alas this was not so.

On the D-day, the lawyers were protesting against a video that went viral in which a doctor, member of the Young Doctors Association is seen bragging about the way he handled their settlement negotiations overlooked by the police officials and simultaneously appears to be, what many have thought of as making fun of the jurists. The lawyers wanted the police to charge two doctors under section 7 of the Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997. On being denied this request, they became infuriated and what ensued is before everyone.

If for a moment, it is assumed that the fault lies with the medical practitioners; that they misbehaved with the members of the judicial community; that adding insult to injury, they dared to engage in mocking the judicial professionals; that the police failed to support them and in short, they were the true victims yet this type of an aggressive reaction cannot be justified and that too in a public hospital where people from all walks of life throng for treatment. The lawyers (or the wolves in sheep’s clothing) had targeted not just the medical and paramedical staff but even the patients and their families as if they were a party too in offending them. A crime is a crime, regardless of who committed it. It is condemnable!

Many sensible members of the Bar and Bench have criticized this outrageous attitude of so-called educated friends of the court and those who have been making statements in defence of these lawyers for whatever reasons, and calling for strikes against arrest of the culprits perhaps do not realize that two wrongs never make a right. No hurt ego can be greater than the sanctity of a human life and here we are talking about four. No injured pride is more painful than the cries of a suffering individual. No amount of apologies can redeem the unforgivable conduct of either the black coats or for that matter, even the white coats.

Justice Ali Baqar Najafi warned: “No society can sustain under the law of jungle,” which clearly implies that no one has the right to take law in their own hands or disrupt the peace of the State.

Perceiving the sensitivity of the situation, a committee of lawyers approached the doctors of PIC with bouquets in order to cool off the heat by tendering apologies on behalf of the entire legal community and declaring whatever occurred, as tragic. It is hoped that in future these towering professional bodies of the society would exhibit better sense of prudence and manner befitting their educational backgrounds. As in mythological stories of squabbles between gods, the ones to end up enduring their wrath are the people, the same holds true for such clashes of the titans of our society.

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The writer, lawyer and author, is an Adjunct Faculty at Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS)

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