Syed Khalique Ahmed | India Tomorrow
NEW DELHI—Strongly condemning the raids at the office of Advocate Mehmood Pracha and brutal assault on the life of an advocate in Etah district of Uttar Pradesh by police, the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) has termed it “illegal” and “in contravention of all canons of protection available to a client and his lawyers”. Meanwhile, the Bar Council of Delhi(BCD) also condemned the raids at the office of Adv Mehmood Pracha and Adv Javed Ali.
The SCBA also asked the Delhi police to cease such search and seizure operations in future and desist from using the information available on the devices seized from the office of Adv Pracha.
The raids were conducted by the Delhi Police (Special Cell) in connection with the Northeast Delhi riots. Adv Pracha and Javed Ali are fighting cases of several Delhi riot victims.
Expressing “deep shock, concern and dismay” on the “arbitrary, illegal and brazen exercise of brute power by the police and action taken by them contrary to law against members of the legal fraternity”, the SCBA said that the raid at the office of Adv Pracha “is the first search and seizure conducted by the Delhi Police at the premises of an advocate and member of the SCBA”.
According to the SCBA, the police seized “confidential data, computers, electronic digital devices which contain data both professional and personal”.
Calling the search and seizure as “malicious act”, SCBA said that such acts “defeat the rights of an advocate to practice his profession without fear or favour”.
“Such acts are intimidatory and designed to abuse the due process by coercing an advocate to succumb to police threats and methods unheard of in legal annals”, SCBA said in a statement signed by its secretary Rohit Pandey.
It said that “such a search/seizure is in the teeth of the specific provision of law which recognise the client-lawyer relationship and protects all correspondence between an advocate and his client”.
“This encroachment on the rights of an advocate by the police violates the rights of the accused to a fair trial guaranteed under Article 21, and the protection against self-incrimination guaranteed under Article 20(3) of the Constitution of India jeopardising the rights of the client to a free trial”, said the SCBA.
The SCBA pointed out that “the seizure of the confidential information which is protected by lawyer-client privilege, in a search conducted by the very police authorities who are prosecuting the lawyers’ clients, will prejudicially affect the rights and guarantees of the accused”.
“It is illegal and contravenes all canons of protection available to a client and his lawyers”, SCBA pointed out.
Coming down heavily on the magistracy, the SCBA said, “the grant of a search warrant by the Magistracy to search a lawyer’s office in a routine mechanical manner, particularly in respect of a lawyer’s communication and correspondences, is antithetical to rule of law and constitutes a disturbing violation of this privilege directly affecting the administration of justice”.
SCBA statement said that the seizure of an “advocate’s computer and other personal digital devices by taking subterfuge under orders of a court” amounts to “grave and egregious violation of privacy of any citizen and that of a member of the Bar who is engaged to act for his client”.
Criticising the assault on an advocate in Etah in his house when he was with his family, the SCBA termed it “atrocious and unacceptable”.
“It is a gross and calculated action on the part of the police in total contravention of law”, the SCBA pointed out.
Bar Council of Delhi Seeks Action Against the Police In Adv Pracha’s Case
In a letter despatched to Union Home Minister on Sunday seeking action against the policemen involved in raids, BCD has drawn attention towards Section 126 to 129 of Indian Evidence Act that provides that no advocate or attorney will be forced to disclose communications made by his client or advice given by him to his client. According to Section 129 of Indian Evidence Act, no one shall be compelled to disclose to a court any confidential communication between him and his advocate.
The letter has also drawn the attention of the minister towards Bar Council of India Rules in this behalf that says that “an advocate shall not, directly or indirectly, commit a breach of the obligations imposed by Section 126 of the Indian Evidence Act”.
The letter also brought to the notice of the minister the understanding between the representatives of the Bar Associations/Bar Council and the Delhi police that “in any case against an advocate, the Bar Association/Bar Council representatives will be informed and taken into confidence”. And “this broader understanding is to maintain the harmony and cordiality between two wings of justice delivery system”, the letter said.
Pointing out that “the provisions of law cannot be ignored”, BCD pointed out that the understanding arrived at between the two wings of justice delivery system “seems to have not been followed in the present case”, adding that “the action of Delhi Police falls short on these aspects, which is a very serious matter as far as legal community is concerned”.
Requesting for an immediate action in the matter, the letter said that there was “anguish and anger” amongst the legal community, “primarily because it goes to the very root and independent discharge of responsibility by an advocate, as provided under the Constitution of India being integral part of justice delivery system”.