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'Malicious Act, Defeats Right To Advocate To Practice' : Supreme Court Bar Association Condemns Delhi Police Raid In Mehmood Pracha's Office, Police Assault On Etah Lawyer

LIVELAW NEWS NETWORK
28 Dec 2020 8:25 AM GMT
Malicious Act, Defeats Right To Advocate To Practice : Supreme Court Bar Association Condemns Delhi Police Raid In Mehmood Prachas Office, Police Assault On Etah Lawyer
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The Supreme Court Bar Association has condemned the Delhi Police raid in the office of Advocate Mehmood Pracha and the police assault on an advocate in Etah in UP.The SCBA has termed the seizure of confidential information from the office of Pracha -who represents many accused in Delhi riots conspiracy cases - a 'malicious act which defeats the right of an advocate to practice his...

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The Supreme Court Bar Association has condemned the Delhi Police raid in the office of Advocate Mehmood Pracha and the police assault on an advocate in Etah in UP.

The SCBA has termed the seizure of confidential information from the office of Pracha -who represents many accused in Delhi riots conspiracy cases - a 'malicious act which defeats the right of an advocate to practice his profession without fear or favour'.

"A search and seizure conducted by the police at the premises of an advocate in a proceeding not pertaining to or relating to a Member of the Bar is a malicious act which defeats the rights of an advocate to practice his profession without fear or favour. Such actions 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. Such a search/seizure is in the teeth of the specific provisions of law which recognise the client lawyer relationship and protects all correspondence between the 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. The seizures of confidential information which is protected by lawyer client privilege, in a search conducted by the very police authorities who are prosecuting the lawyer's 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", the SCBA statement read.

It was on December 24 that the Delhi police raided the office of Pracha to search for "incriminating documents" and "metadata of outbox" of the official email address of Pracha's law firm. Pracha objected to the seizure of laptops saying that it contains confidential information entrusted with him by advocates and that the seizure of the same will breach attorney-client privilege.

He later moved a court in Delhi against the seizure. The Court summoned the investigating officer and the directed the production of the entire video footage of the raid.  On Sunday, a Magistrate at Patiala House Court directed that the  entire video footage of the search carried out two days ago by the Delhi Police at the office of Advocate Mehmood Pracha to be preserved with the seal of the court.

The SCBA in its statement said that Advocates are entrusted with confidential and privileged communications by their clients and that such privilege is protected under law and is the sine qua non for the effective realization of the right to fair trial, the right to access.

The Association also expressed concern at the Magistrates issuing search warrants in a "routine mechanical" manner with respect to lawyers' offices.The police said that the raid was on the basis of a search warrant issued by the court "to search for the said incrementing documents and meta data of out of box of email ID" of Pracha.

In this regard, 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".

The SCBA said that it strongly condemns the actions of the Delhi Police in its attempt to seize an advocate's personal computer and other personal digital devices by taking subterfuge under orders of a Court.

"Such an arbitrary exercise to access an Advocate's personal digital devices is a 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. It does not augur well as such actions are in the teeth of the protections and privileges granted by law to lawyers to carry out their professional callings without fear or favour", it said.

Taking strong exception to the Delhi police action, the SCBA called upon the police to "immediately forbear, cease and desist from using the information available on the devices so seized".

The Bar Council of Delhi has written to the Union Ministry of Home Affairs to expressing "anguish and anger" at the raid carried out in Pracha's office. The Delhi High Court Women Lawyers' Forum has also condemned the "targeting of lawyers by investigative agencies"

Police assault on district lawyer at Etah in UP

The SCBA also condemned the police assault on a district court lawyer at Etah in Uttar Pradesh.

It maybe be noted that the Police broke open the door of a house, and had dragged & pulled an Advocate (who was in Advocate's dress) and had assaulted him mercilessly. The video of this incident had got viral recently. The Bar Council of India has already issued a statement condemning the police assault and has urged the Chief Justice of the Allahabad High Court and the Chief Justice of India to take suo moto cognizance of the same.

"The brutal assault of a member of our fraternity in Etah in his house when he was with his family is atrocious and unacceptable. t is a gross and calculated action on the part of the police in total contravention of law", the SCBA commented.

"The Supreme Court Bar Association expresses its serious concern on the reprehensible conduct of the police in both these cases and calls upon all concerned authorities to take serious punitive action against all concerned for their atrocious conduct which denigrates and violates the mandate of the Rule of law", the SCBA statement said in conclusion.


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