Delhi Police Raid on Lawyer Pracha ‘Arbitrary, Illegal’: SCBA, BAI
Supreme Court Bar Association, Bar Association of India issued statements condemning police raid at Pracha’s office.
The Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) and the Bar Association of India (BAI) have condemned the police raids at the office of advocate Mehmood Pracha, in connection with the Delhi riots case.
SCBA released a statement, expressing “shock, deep concern and dismay on the recent information available on the arbitrary, illegal and brazen exercise of brute power by the police and actions taken by them contrary to law.”
On 24 and 25 December, the Delhi Police special cell had conducted a 15-hour-long search in Pracha’s office, wherein they reportedly took data off of three computers.
Pracha is representing several victims of the Delhi communal violence of February 2020, where 53 died. UAPA accused Gulfisha Fatima is also amongst those he represents.
Regarding the search at Pracha’s office, the SCBA said: “It is reported that the police has seized confidential data, computers, electronic digital devices which contain data, both professional and personal to him.”
SCBA also took note and condemned a second incident regarding the “brutal assault” on a lawyer in Etah district of Uttar Pradesh, where local police entered the house, ‘mercilessly and brutally’ assaulted him and then lodged him and his entire family in jail.
What Did SCBA Say About Searches at Pracha’s Office?
“A search and seizure conducted 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 of law by coercing an advocate to succumb to police threats and methods unheard in legal annals,” SCBA said.
Speaking about lawyer-client privilege, the statement goes on to say: “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. The association believes that this encroachment on rights of an advocate 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 statement also said the action’s of the police authorities 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,” it read.
It went on to say that advocates are entrusted with confidential communications, which are protected and privileged. “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 of justice, right against incriminating oneself which constitute essential rights guaranteed under Article 20 and 21 of the Constitution of India.”
Referring to the grant of the search warrant by a magistrate, the SCBA statement 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 administration of justice.”
BAI Issues Statement Condemning Search
The Bar Association of India (BAI) also expressed “its deep concern regarding reports of the search and seizure operation carried out by the Delhi Police.”
“The BAI is also concerned that the Delhi Police appears to have gone beyond the permission to conduct the “search” authorised by the warrant, by seeking to seize and copy data off concerned advocate’s personal computer and other personal digital devices,” the statement read.
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