23 March 2021 11:14 AM GMT
A Delhi Court on Tuesday reserved orders in the application filed by Advocate Mehmood Pracha against the second raid conducted by Delhi Police's Special Cell. The order was reserved after Advocate RK Wadhwa, President of the New Delhi Bar Association took strong objections while representing the Bar on the Delhi Police's Raids thereby violating their privacy.Chief Metropolitan Magistrate...
A Delhi Court on Tuesday reserved orders in the application filed by Advocate Mehmood Pracha against the second raid conducted by Delhi Police's Special Cell. The order was reserved after Advocate RK Wadhwa, President of the New Delhi Bar Association took strong objections while representing the Bar on the Delhi Police's Raids thereby violating their privacy.
Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Pankaj Sharma reserved the orders which will be pronounced on 25th March 2021.
"Why do you want to see the entire system? This will set a precedent where the Delhi Police Officials will tomorrow come to the office of lawyers and retrieve data. This is no way. The bar is against all these things. I am saying this today, you cannot raid any lawyer's office like this." Wadhwa submitted while coming in support of Pracha.
Objecting to the submissions made by Adv. Wadhwa, the SPP Amit Prasad submitted before the Court that the lawyers cannot be dealt with as a special category which can be offered a special treatment as against the others.
"The court has to decide whether the court can allow a special class in violation of Art. 14 or the court will allow a normal procedure applicable to everyone." SPP submitted.
At the outset, Advocate Wadhwa submitted "We are not arguing that we are a special class. But a tamasha cannot be created with us by them. It is my responsibility as a lawyer to not disclose any data of my clients to anybody. As per law I'm saying, it is my moral and legal commitment as a lawyer.Under this garb, I don't know what they will take from the data from me.I don't know why tussle is happening? If a lawyer doesn't have the privacy to protect his clients, I'm sure we are not granted any special category. We are willing to give you the data. But why do you want my computer and my data and the whole record to know who do I talk to, who are my clients etc?"
Furthermore, reliance was also made to Rule 17 of the Standards of Professional Conduct and Etiquettes under the Bar Council Of Delhi Rules which provides that "An advocate shall not, directly or indirectly, commit a breach of the obligations imposed by Section 126 of the Indian Evidence Act."
"This is in the Bar ethics. Our black coats have the same ethics. Why are we getting into this? I know where they want to go from here, what their purpose is. I won't let them to fulfill it.We are not above law. But this should happen within the parameters of CrPC. This is my submission." Wadhwa continued.
On the other hand, learned SPP submitted that the protection under sec. 126 of Indian Evidence Act cannot be extended to searches under sec. 93 of CrPC. Moreover, it was further submitted that sec. 126 protection is given to advocate, barrister etc only to the extent that I cannot compel him to come and depose. And therefore this cannot be extended to any other case.
The Court had reserved orders on the application filed by Mehmood Pracha on 19th March 2021, however, the Court today heard the arguments put forth by Pracha at his request earlier this week.
In the previous hearing, Special Public Prosecutor Amit Prasad told the Court that the protection under Sec. 126 of the Indian Evidence Act (on attorney-client privilege) cannot extend to Sec. 93 of CrPC (which deals with search warrants). He went ahead to submit that Pracha's application was limiting the scope of investigation and that the classification created does not fall within the permit of law and is in violation of Art. of the Constitution of India. In view of this, the SPP also urged the Court to vacate the stay on the search.
Previously, the Court had sought the response of the Investigating Officer on how it proposes to receive the "target data" of the pen drive without creating any evidentiary vulnerability and without any alteration or disclosure to other data relating to Mr. Pracha's clients.
The Court vide order dated 10th March 2021 stayed the operation of the search warrant issued by the Delhi Police's Special Cell against Mehmood Pracha till the pendency of his application.
The Court on earlier occasion opined that the issue of retrieval of target data without interference with the other data stored in the hard disk has to be meticulously looked upon and at the same time, obtaining target data without creating any evidentiary vulnerabilities to future purpose has to be considered because it is important for the IO to maintain authenticity and integrity of target data.
Advocate Mehmood Pracha moved the application against the second raid conducted by the Special Cell in his office on 9th March, thereby calling the whole exercise as "completely illegal and unjustified". Pracha has been representing many accused persons in the Delhi Riots conspiracy cases that broke out in February last year.
While alleging that the sole objective of conducting the second raid was to illegally steal the entire data of the sensitive cases he has been dealing with, Pracha in his application contended that he is going to the extent of risking self-implication even in derogation of his Fundamental Right only for the sake of protecting the data and information pertaining to his clients and briefs which he is duty bound to protect as an advocate.
During the previous proceedings, Advocate Pracha had submitted in the Court that:
"It is my fundamental and constitutional right to protect the interest of my clients. To save their integrity. They have deliberately put my and my clients life under threat. This is also sensitive data. They want to act under their political masters. I cannot give such data. If you want to hang me, do it. But I cannot sacrifice my attorney privilege communication."
"I am offering my neck to save my clients life. I am willing to face Gallows for protecting my clients life. I am ready to be the lamb. Tell your political masters to hang me. But I will not let them harm my life. Come what may." Advocate Mehmood Pracha had submitted.