The lawyers’ attack on Punjab Institue of Cardiology is criminal. In a shameful act of vandalism, the lawyers forgot the sanctity that hospitals carry. What the lawyers did will go down as a move of the goons in uniform. Even in the times of war, fighting armies do not attack public places, especially hospitals of each other. What can one say when those who are meant to uphold the law attack a health facility in the capital city of Punjab? The lawyers are polarised, and they are prone to acting as a gang that has no qualms about intimidating members of other professions.

It is the irony of all ironies that lawyers who are supposed to protect people’s rights are being blamed for the death of at least four patients, as the doctors attending to them had no other option but to flee the vicinity. Dispensing brute or street justice is unacceptable behaviour in any society, more so in a democratic society defined by the rule of law. When those dispensing street justice are officers of the court, there is a crisis. By attacking the hospital, the lawyers abdicated their duty as officers of the court to uphold the rule of law.

Nevertheless, it is not the first time when lawyers have dispensed rough justice. When lawyers opt to take the law into their hands, it erodes popular faith in the justice system. Vigilante lawyers are guilty of more than violating the law; they are guilty of undermining the confidence in the justice system.

Given the immense import of their act, lawyers who consider a thrashing to be a legitimate instrument of justice should be identified and punished per the law; depending on the severity of the act, face disbarment. Rarely, if ever, are lawyers held accountable for their actions of subversion of the rule of law. This must change. And the responsibility of changing the lawyers lie on the shoulders of the bar leaders.