Monday, October 3, 2022

Lawyer knocks Allahabad High Court doors against harassment by Uttar Pradesh police

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A lawyer has approached the Allahabad High Court, alleging that Uttar Pradesh Police is subjecting her to harassment and compelling her to disclose details about communication with one of her past clients.

The Division Bench of Justices Manoj Kumar Gupta and Deepak Verma on September 1 were hearing a petition filed by Chaman Aara, who claimed to be a practising advocate of the Court. She prayed for direction to Senior Superintendent of Police, Prayagraj to protect her life and liberty and not to harass her under the garb of investigation in pursuance of first information report dated August 6, 2021 registered as case under Sections 354, 366, 506 IPC and Section 3 and (5)(1) of the Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance, 2020, at Police Station Shahi District Bareilly.

The first informant is one Atmanand Rastogi, who alleged that his daughter was abducted by Vishal Kureshi and Khatibul Hasan Khan, who are named as accused and the third accused is an unknown person.

The specific case of the petitioner is that she has no concern or connection with the victim. She had in the past, filed a writ petition on their behalf for being provided police protection as they were being subjected to harassment by the parents of the victim girl and police. The said petition was dismissed as infructuous in view of the fact that by that time, the first information report came to be registered against the accused persons.

It is submitted that apart from filing the said writ petition in her capacity as an advocate, she is in no manner connected with the incident, nor is aware of the whereabouts of the victim girl. However, the police are compelling the petitioner to produce the victim girl, failing which it is threatening to take coercive action against her.

I.K. Chaturvedi, Senior Counsel appearing on behalf of the petitioner, vehemently submitted that the petitioner, who had represented the victim and accused boy in a petition filed before this Court for providing security to them, is entitled to benefit of Section 129 of the Indian Evidence Act. She cannot be compelled to be a witness or disclose the details of communication with her client. Police are visiting her house at odd hours and subjecting her to harassment.

In compliance with the High Court order dated August 31, 2021, instructions have been furnished to Standing Counsel by the Senior Superintendent of Police, Prayagraj as well as Senior Superintendent of Police, Bareilly.

The Court noted, “The Senior Superintendent of Police, Prayagraj has taken a stand that Prayagraj police is not involved in investigation of the case. It had only provided logistic support to the police party, which had come from Bareilly to Prayagraj in search of the victim and accused. The Senior Superintendent of Police, Bareilly in Para 4 of the instructions has mentioned that on August 14, 2021, police party of District Bareilly went to a house at Muirabad.

During the course of investigation, she came across a petitioner, who disclosed her identity as Advocate of accused persons. The investigator tried to elicit information from the petitioner in relation to accused persons but did not get any satisfactory reply and, thereafter, left the house of the petitioner. It is also mentioned that the police force did not misbehave with the petitioner.

The Standing Counsel, on instructions, stated that the investigator sought information from the petitioner during the course of investigation to find out the whereabouts of the victim and the accused. The petitioner is neither an accused, nor a suspect.

The Counsel for the Petitioner submitted that the investigator had acted wholly in a malafide manner in interrogating the petitioner, knowing well that she is only the lawyer of the accused.

He submitted that information available with the petitioner is confidential and immune from disclosure under Section 129 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872. The investigator had exceeded his authority in subjecting the Petitioner to interrogation and forcing her to divulge information regarding accused and victim.

He further submitted that even after the Court had taken cognizance of the incident and passed an order on August 31, 2021, the police party did not leave the house of the petitioner. He seeks time to file a supplementary affidavit to highlight the illegal acts and conduct of the investigating agency towards the petitioner.

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“In the meantime, the petitioner is free to file supplementary affidavits. Having regard to the stand taken by the Senior Superintendent of Police, Bareilly in regard to the petitioner, it is hereby provided that the petitioner shall not be subjected to any kind of harassment in course of investigation of case under sections 354, 366, 368, 506 I.P.C. & 3/5(1) Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Religious Conversion Ordinance, 2020.

“In the meantime, the Standing Counsel shall obtain specific instructions from the Senior Superintendent of Police, Bareilly as to whether the phone of the petitioner has been kept on surveillance, as alleged, and, if so, under whose order and on what basis”, the Court ordered.

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