The Delhi High Court on Wednesday sought response from the Central government in a public interest litigation (PIL) petition seeking guidelines for regulation of search and seizure activities carried out by police at advocates' premises. [Nikhil Borwankar Vs State of NCT of Delhi & Ors.]
A bench of Chief Justice DN Patel and Justice Jyoti Singh did not issue formal notice in the matter on a request of made by Additional Solicitor General Chetan Sharma but asked the government to respond to the plea.
"We are simply adjourning and not issuing a notice as we are still awaiting their (Centre's) responses."
The matter will be heard next on September 3, 2021.
The petition was filed by advocate Nikhil Borwankar seeking formulation of mandatory guidelines to be followed by the police in effecting search and seizure operations at the premises of an advocate under the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPc).
Advocate Prashant Bhushan appearing for the petitioner, submitted that search and seizure operations conducted at a lawyers' premises often involve taking away their mobile phones which contain confidential information and exchanges with clients.
Bhushan also argued that the CrPC mandates the requirement of the issuance of summons prior to such a search operation being conducted.
In furtherance of his case, Bhushan also referred to the detailed rules laid down by the US Dept. of Justice titled 'Searches of Premises of Subject Attorneys.'
In addition to this, he also put on record a statement issued by the Supreme Court Bar Association dated December 28,2020, which expressed serious concern over the conduct of the police while conducting search and seizure operations at an advocate's premises in an arbitrary and illegal manner, contrary to the Rule of Law.
Bhushan contended that these actions are done with a view to unduly intimidate the advocates and prayed for notice to be issued to the government.
ASG Sharma on behalf of the Centre, vehemently opposed the plea.
"Firstly, this PIL fails to mention who is an advocate here and who are the parties and the petitioner. Moreover the Intelligence Bureau and the National Investigation Agency have to necessarily be made parties in this case."
Sharma also submitted that search and seizure rules are different across different acts and that allowing this plea would mean asking for a fresh legislation which cannot be done.
Finally, the Court refrained from issuing notice and asked Centre to file a short reply before next date of hearing.
The matter will be heard on September 3.
The PIL was filed through advocates David V Thomas and Shimona Ghosh.