Advocate Mehmood Pracha. Source: NDTV

SCBA and BAI condemn police raids on Delhi riots case advocate Mehmood Pracha

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.

Pracha is representing some of the accused in the Delhi Riots case.

In a statement released on Monday, SCBA said a search and seizure conducted by the police at the premises of an advocate in a case not pertaining to or relating to a member of the Bar is a malicious act that defeats the rights of an advocate to practice his profession without fear or favour.

Such actions, the SCBA said, 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.

“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 cannons of protection to a client and his lawyer,” the statement read.

SCBA also questioned the grant of a search warrant by the Magistrate. It said to allow search in the premises of a lawyer 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 also condemned the “brutal assault” on a lawyer in Etah district of Uttar Pradesh in his house when he was with his family.

“It is a gross and calculated action on the part of the police in total contravention of law,” said SCBA.

SCBA has called 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.

In its statement, the Bar Association of India urged the authorities and judiciary to be cognizant of the importance of attorney-client privilege while issuing and executing search warrants that could erode this cornerstone of the administration of justice.

“The issuing of a search warrant in respect of a lawyer’s communication and correspondence is a grave violation of client-attorney privilege, and can cause a chilling effect in clients providing true and complete disclosures to their lawyers, and would impede the administration of justice”, the BAI said.

Earlier, the Bar Council of Delhi wrote to the Union Home Minister expressing its displeasure at the raids in the premises of the duo advocates. It said the raid appeared to fall short of the statutory requirement of privileged communication between lawyer and client and that the Bar Council wasn’t taken into confidence before the raids.

Meanwhile, a Delhi Court, on the application filed by Pracha, directed the preservation of the entire video footage of the police raids at the house of Advocate Mehmood Pracha.

The Delhi Police has also registered an FIR against Pracha where he and his associates have been accused of allegedly abusing and intimidating the police team that searched his office premises for 15 hours straight on 24 and 25 December.

Criticising the raids, senior advocate Indira Jaising tweeted:  “The raids on Mahmood Pracha, Lawyer for the defence in the Delhi riots case is a direct attack on the fundamental rights of the right to legal representation, all lawyers must condemn this attack.”

Pracha is being investigated pursuant to a Delhi Court order asking the police to probe the allegations against him that he had “tutored” some victims and witnesses in the Delhi riots case to give “false statements”.

According to The Wire, the Delhi Police claimed in a report alleging that Pracha “tutored” victims to give false statements in riot-related cases. The report cited a victim’s statement, in which he said he was asked by Pracha to make a false deposition.