A day after Delhi Police carried out searches at the offices of two lawyers, which many in the fraternity described as an attack against the attorney-client privilege and on the fundamental right to legal representation, professional bodies representing Bar members largely appeared reluctant to take a stand on the issue.
Senior advocate and Chairman, Bar Council of Delhi, Ramesh Gupta said the statutory body cannot do much at present as the court vacations have begun. “Maybe, the High Court Bar Association is doing something,” Gupta told The Indian Express. Asked whether the Bar Council was going to take any stand on this issue, he said, “Apni level pe kya karegi, takkar maregi kahin jaake? (what will we do at our level, hit someone?)”
Gupta also said a complaint was received from advocate Javed Ali, one of the two lawyers whose offices were searched by police, and the same was forwarded to Delhi High Court Registrar General “for appropriate action”.
The Delhi Police Special Cell had also searched the Nizamuddin East office of lawyer Mehmood Pracha, whose firm Legal Axis is defending several persons accused in cases related to the Delhi riots. In August, police had told a Delhi court that Pracha had forged documents and instigated a man to depose falsely in a case related to the riots. Additional Sessions Judge Vinod Yadav had said “it would be appropriate if the matter is investigated by an independent agency like Crime Branch or Special Cell”. An FIR was filed in the matter.
Delhi High Court Bar Association Honorary Secretary Abhijat Friday said the lawyers’ body was in the process of ascertaining the facts. “While on the one hand it is deplorable that lawyers’ offices are being raided in this manner and privileged communication is being looked into, but on the other hand we should not act in a manner the investigation in a crime is also interfered with.”
He added that the lawyers’ body will take a stand after conferring within the executive committee. “We do not know all the facts. The deliberations have to be informed. We cannot pass a resolution for the sake of resolution. We are collecting the information and facts that how much the police have interfered, whether Pracha is an accused in any FIR and therefore is being investigated or is it that he is being targeted because he is a lawyer for the riot accused.”
In a tweet on Thursday, Pracha had said, “Bar is the last bastion. We must all rise to the occasion and save attacks on our profession and ultimately the Constitution of India.” Following the searches at his office, Pracha also alleged he and his associates were assaulted during the raid and he was threatened “with the name of (Union Home Minister) Amit Shah Sahab”. Delhi Police, however, in a statement accused Pracha of being “verbally aggressive” and “creating a ruckus”.
The Special Cell in the statement said, “The investigation officer and his team, showing utmost professional restraint, decided to record the happenings as were fully video-recorded in their report to be filed before the Court for further necessary instructions and returned post midnight. A complaint regarding the conduct of Sh. Mehmood Pracha and his associates has been given to the local Police Station for appropriate action”.
Meanwhile, many senior senior lawyers continued to criticise the police action against the lawyers. This included Delhi government’s Senior Standing Counsel (Criminal) Rahul Mehra, who tweeted: “I may have professional differences with Mr Mehmood Pracha and may agree to disagree with him most of the time but for an office of a lawyer to be raided like this is highly condemnable. Expecting good sense to prevail sooner rather than later.” Congress leader Manish Tewari, who is also a lawyer, said he was “deeply disturbed” by the search conducted at Pracha’s offices and asked Bar Council to “take up this arbitrary harassment”.
Special Cell, in a statement, said the searches were conducted in connection with an investigation into the alleged use of documents “containing false/fabricated evidence” and “a forged notary stamp before a Hon’ble Court” during a bail proceeding.
Pracha clients allege police pressure
New Delhi: Some clients of advocate Mehmood Pracha, who are fighting cases related to the Northeast Delhi riots, Friday claimed at a press conference that the Delhi Police had pressured them in the past to drop Pracha as their lawyer and withdraw their complaints. Mohammad Nasir Khan, a businessman who lives in Gonda, said he lost his left eye to a bullet wound on February 24 and his complaint was filed only after Pracha’s intervention. He claimed he had been told by police to drop Pracha as his lawyer. Sahil Parvez, who also lives in Gonda, said Pracha had helped him file an FIR in connection with his father’s murder. He claimed he too faced similar pressure from police.
When contacted, Anil Mittal, spokesperson for the Delhi Police, said, “All such allegations are false and baseless. Investigation into cases is being done solely on merits.” ENS
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