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Can Advocates Be Declared 'Special Class' For Prescribing Search & Seizure Guidelines Beyond Scope Of Evidence Act? ASG Asks Delhi High Court

Akshita Saxena
28 July 2021 8:26 AM GMT
Can Advocates Be Declared Special Class For Prescribing Search & Seizure Guidelines Beyond Scope Of Evidence Act? ASG Asks Delhi High Court
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Can Advocates be designated as a special class of persons for prescribing a procedure for search and seizure on their premises beyond the scope of Indian Evidence Act, Additional Solicitor General Chetan Sharma today asked the Delhi High Court.The query was posed before a Division Bench of Chief Justice DN Patel and Justice Jyoti Singh while it was hearing a PIL moved by Advocate...

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Can Advocates be designated as a special class of persons for prescribing a procedure for search and seizure on their premises beyond the scope of Indian Evidence Act, Additional Solicitor General Chetan Sharma today asked the Delhi High Court.

The query was posed before a Division Bench of Chief Justice DN Patel and Justice Jyoti Singh while it was hearing a PIL moved by Advocate Nikhil Borwankar, seeking guidelines to be followed by police or investigating authorities while conducting search and seizure operations on an Advocate's premises.

Opposing issuance of notice on the petition, ASG Sharma stated that the Petitioner claims to be aggrieved by the actions and omissions of the investigating agencies while conducting search and seizure operations at the premises of "brother advocates". However, he has not disclosed which Advocate in particular.

"Who is this "an Advocate" in the PIL? What is the relationship between the Petitioner and "an Advocate"? In a PIL the petitioner should come clean" ASG argued while questioning the Petitioner's locus standi.

He further asked the Court whether it would like to lay down a "special class" of persons beyond the Indian Evidence Act. He pointed out that procedure for search and seizure is different in different Acts like NDPS, PMLA, etc.

"Are they seeking a Legislation over and beyond all this? It can't be done," Sharma argued.

Furthermore, he stated that the alleged illegal searches were conducted by CBI, IB, NIA, etc. who have not been made parties to the petition.

He therefore sought an adjournment to file short submissions detailing his objections in the matter.

Accordingly, the Court has adjourned the matter till September 3. It may be made clear that notice has not been issued.

Advocate Prashant Bhushan appeared for the Petitioner. He argued that seizure of electronic devices from lawyers' offices such as mobile phone and laptop is a serious problem as it contains privileged communications with clients, sharing of which is prohibited under the Indian Evidence Act. He stated that even the CrPC provides for issue summons first, unless reasons can be shown for conducting the search without summons.

Bhushan also sought to rely on the Rues framed by the US Department of Justice to safeguard the interest of lawyers during search and seizure. He stated that search and seizure conducted by the police at the premises of Advocate is a malicious act which precludes the Advocates from discharging their duties freely and defeats their right to practice the profession without any fear.

Case Title: Nikhil Borwankar v. GNCTD 

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