The Patiala House Court yesterday refused to pass any order in the application filed by Advocate Mehmood Pracha seeking directions to protect lawyer-client privilege considering the Delhi Police raids conducted at his office.
The order was passed by Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Dr Pankaj Sharma.
“The objections raised by the applicant are baseless. Let the search warrant be executed in accordance with law subject to safeguards as per expect opinion”, the Court stated in its order.
The Court held that as per expert opinion, target data could be stored/copied/retrieved in a pendrive/memory device without any interference with other data, therefore ruling out the possibility of evidentiary vulnerabilities.
“The expert opinion reflect that if the hard disc is submitted in FSL the “target data” can be retrieved without any alteration to the meta data associated with “target data”, without creating any evidential vulnerabilities as the data will be retrieved forensically. Also, it will not affect the data stored in hard disc relating to other clients of the applicant,” the order states.
The Court further said that collection of evidence was intrinsic to the investigation and hands of the investigators could not be tied to prevent them from collecting evidence. The order reads,
“The collection of data from its source is done to ensure its admissibility during trial and it is imperative for the IO to collect best form of evidence during investigation as per its own discretion…the decision of the IO cannot be interfered with by the Court nor accused can dictate him as to how evidence is to be collected, if it is clear that the other data can be protected from being interfered with by the IO.”
The reliance upon Section 126 of the Indian Evidence Act and the Bar Council Conduct Rules by Pracha is misplaced, the Court further said.
For these reasons, among others, the application was dismissed.
Earlier this year, a raid at Pracha’s office was undertaken by the Police in connection with an FIR alleging that he had tutored a witness to initiate a false Delhi Riots case.
In his application, Pracha prayed for directions to protect the privileged communication with his other clients on his laptop/hard disk in terms of Section 126 of Evidence Act.
Opposing the application, the Prosecution argued that Pracha’s application was not maintainable as it was not borne out of any provision of law.
SPP Amit Prasad also contended that lawyers could not be differentiated in criminal investigations and thus protection under Section 126 could not be claimed.
During the course of the proceedings, the President of the Patiala House Bar Association RK Wadhwa had also registered his objection to the Delhi Police raids conducted at the office of Advocate Mehmood Pracha.
On March 10, the Court had passed an order staying the search warrant.