Updated: September 16, 2020 12:45:28 pm
The Delhi High Court Tuesday pulled up Tihar jail authorities and asked them to substantiate their statement that the Alumni Association of Jamia Millia Islamia president Shifa ur Rehman declined to attend a video meeting with his lawyer and that opportunities were provided to him or his counsel for the purpose.
“In this country, you cannot simply pick somebody and put him in jail and tell him that you cannot meet even your lawyer,” Justice Vibhu Bakhru observed. The court was hearing a petition by Rehman regarding the extended time period granted to Delhi Police’s Special Cell for probe into the UAPA case registered against him and others in connection with the anti-CAA protests.
One of the issues raised in the petition is regarding the alleged denial of grant of access to Rehman’s lawyers despite orders passed by a lower court in July asking authorities to consider the prayer for arranging a meeting between Rehman and his counsel. Advocate Amit Bhalla, who represents Rehman, has argued that the hearings provided before courts to him are no hearings in absence of a lawyer.
While jail authorities submitted that it is not that he has been told he cannot meet his lawyer, the court observed that “you have frustrated every attempt for the person to meet his lawyer”, and asked the authorities to bring on record all documents or material to support their statement made in a status report.
In the status report, the jail authorities told the court that Rehman was provided the facility to interact with his family members and legal counsel 16 times between May and August over the phone. The report added that Rehman has made phone calls to his family. When the arrangements for video conferencing on July 21 and August 5 were made, the authorities said, Rehman was not well on the first occasion and declined to attend the meeting, adding that there was connectivity failure on the second occasion.
Rehman’s counsel, in his reply to the status report, submitted to the court that jail authorities were not taking steps to organise the video meet despite repeated emails. Bhalla also told the court that he was not informed about the two meetings of July 12 and August 8, adding that it is the counsel who has to generate the video conferencing link and intimate jail authorities a day in advance. On September 11, the counsel joined a video link sent as per prior communication but no one from jail joined the conference, the reply states.
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