The raid conducted at the office of a lawyer in Delhi, Mehmood Pracha cannot be seen merely as a legal action against just one lawyer. The incident bears serious auguries related to the law and order prevailing in the country and the administration of justice. It is learned that under the cover of a search warrant, all the documents and details about the cases the lawyer had taken up, including private data about the clients involved in those cases, were taken away.
Advocate Mehmooh Pracha is a lawyer who handles several cases in connection with the anti-Citizenship Amendment Law (CAA) protests in Delhi. The Special Cell of Delhi police began a raid in his office at 12 noon on 24 December which went on till 3 am the next morning. The police say that the purpose of the raid was to find out the fake message and other details sent from Pracha's office. Pracha pointed out that the warrant did not allow them to seize the computer hard disks or even the computer; as per the warrant, the police can examine the documents, but had no authority to seize them. Still the police took away all of them.
Delhi police had raised allegations that Pracha had persuaded victims of the Delhi violence cases to make false statements. And the Additional Special Judge had asked police to enquire about the allegations too. As per Sec 93 of CrPC, the police has the right only to inspect the related records. It is being pointed out that using that authority to seize documents and laptop constitutes not only police overreach, but also an attempt to strike at the very root of justice system.
Further, Delhi police also violated the stipulation that as per the procedure, the details of the raid and the seized documents have to be reported to the magistrate; Advocate Pracha brought this to the attention of the court, and the court then asked the police to produce the raid details and documents.
The key issue involved in this incident is not merely that of treating law and due procedure as irrelevant. The right to keep the communications between lawyers and clients secret is part and parcel of the justice system. Thus by seizing hard disk and laptop, which contain all such communications, the polcie has done serious injustice. When the police gets custody of the correspondence between Advocate Pracha and the clients he represents, the police is opening the doors for destroying the confidence in the lawyer and to endanger the clients. And most importantly, all this was done trespassing the limits contained in the court warrant.
As such the police action amounts to trying to impose police supremacy over the rights and freedoms of lawyers. For this very reason, it is not merely a matter concerning one lawyer, but the entire lawyer community and the justice system. This method of putting police raj above rule of law, does matter to the entire country. The special cell of Delhi police is notorious for not only overstepping its jurisdiction but for creating fake case and human rights violations too. And it has also the dubious reputation of having received strictures of the courts.
The partisan approach the Delhi police had adopted during the anti-CAA protest has already been well noted. When such a police force seeks permission for raid into the office of a lawyer who handles cases ranging from anti-CAA stir to farmer agitation, the court should have taken extra care. And the government penchant for framing activists who dissent, should also have guided the court to such caution. When the police starts hunting not only those who disagree, but even lawyers who argue their case in the court, precise boundaries and directives should have come from the court. Even during the Emergency, the sanctity of the lawyer's calling was not subjected to such onslaughts. After all, the precondition of court's permission for a police raid is to ensure abundant care, civil rights and legal protection.
However, it is consoling that the court is taking action on the complaint lodged by Advocate Pracha in Patiala House Court which has asked the raiding official to appear before the court with all relevant material, including the video of the raid. If the cases filed by Pracha were fabricated, the police should have proven that in the court. But instead of that, conducting raid in a manner of intimidating the lawyer and clients is far from the right course. It is hoped that the court's intervention will serve to make a course correction and to punish those who wronged.