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Foreign lawyers cannot have interviews with jail inmates as legal advisor, says Delhi court

Delhi Prison Rules, 2018 permit lawyers who are registered under the Advocates Act to have legal interviews with prisoners and meet them, the court said.

By: PTI | New Delhi | Published: February 25, 2020 3:46:21 pm
Christian Michel James was extradited from the UK on December 4. (Express file photo) Christian Michel James was extradited from the UK on December 4. (Express file photo)

Foreign lawyers are not entitled to hold interviews with prisoners of Tihar jail, as legal advisors, a Delhi court has said while rejecting a plea by Christian Michel James, an accused in the AgustaWestland chopper scam, seeking permission to meet a foreign lawyer.

Special judge Arvind Kumar said if a foreign lawyer intends to meet or visit the accused as a friend it can be allowed as per prison rules.

The rules make it clear that foreign lawyers are not entitled to have legal interviews with the inmate/prisoner of Tihar Jail, as legal Advisor.

Delhi Prison Rules, 2018 permit lawyers who are registered under the Advocates Act to have legal interviews with prisoners and meet them, the court said.

“It is clear from the bare reading of aforesaid rules that legal practitioners registered under the Advocates Act, 1961 are permitted to meet the accused/ have legal interviews as per the aforesaid Jail Rules. So far as foreign lawyers are concerned, the Advocates Act, 1961 do not recognize or permit foreign lawyers to practice in India in the litigation side,” it said.

The court referred to a Supreme Court judgement which said that foreign lawyers do not have a right to practice in India either on litigation or non-litigation side. They can, however, appear before the Court with its permission.

The court said no application has been filed by Rosemary Patrizzi seeking permission to represent accused Christian before this court.

“The aforesaid rules make it clear that foreign lawyers are not entitled to have legal interviews with the inmate/prisoner of Tihar Jail, as legal advisor. Thus, Ms. Rosemary Patrizzi cannot be allowed to have legal interview with accused Christian James Michel as legal advisor,” the court said.

It said if a foreign lawyer intends to meet or visit the accused as a friend, it can be allowed as the rules.

“Vide order February 12, 2019, Ms Rosemary Patrizzi was allowed to meet accused Christian James Michel when she intended to meet accused Christian James Michel as friend. It is further noted that no detail of cases pending outside India, regarding which the accused wants to have discussion with aforesaid foreign lawyer, during legal interviews, has been mentioned in the application,” the court said.

It noted that the accused is already being represented by three Indian lawyers who are entitled to meet and have legal interview with the accused as per jail rules.

“Hence, no specific directions are needed in this regard,” it said.

Michel had submitted that he may be allowed to meet his lawyers in jail during the period of his judicial custody so that he will be in a position to explain his case which is very much necessary for his defence during the trial of the case.

He also argued that he was facing prosecution in different parts of the world and not all the cases are handled by Indian lawyers.

CBI had argued that the prison rules restrict the scope of legal interviews with the inmate for the legal practitioners under the Advocates Act, 1961 and it does not recognize any foreign lawyer to practice in India, including litigation/ non-litigation work.

As such, while the advocates of the applicant are entitled to meet him in jail subject to Jail rules, no such permission can be granted to any foreign lawyer, the agency had argued.

With regard to his second plea seeking permission to make ISD calls, the court said the matter is pending before the Delhi High Court and the counsel for accused has himself stated that he is not pressing his prayer for permission to make ISD calls, therefore it would delve on this issue.

Michel is among the three alleged middlemen being probed in the case by the ED and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). The others are Guido Haschke and Carlo Gerosa.

The ED, in its charge sheet filed against Michel in June 2016, had alleged that he had received 30 million euros (about Rs 225 crore) from AgustaWestland.

The CBI charge sheet alleged an estimated loss of 398.21 million euros (about Rs 2,666 crore) to the exchequer due to the deal which was signed on February 8, 2010 for the supply of VVIP choppers worth 556.262 million euros.

The deal was scrapped in January, 2014.

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