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Cannot Prevent Someone From Meeting Their Lawyer: Delhi HC in Jamia Alumni President's Case

Justice Vibhu Bakhru said the Tihar Jail authorities had 'frustrated' every attempt made by Shifa ur Rehman to meet his counsel.
Shifa-Ur-Rehman, president of Jamia Alumni Association. Photo: Facebook/Shifa-Ur-Rehman

New Delhi: The Delhi high court on Tuesday criticised the Tihar jail authorities, saying they have “frustrated every attempt” of Jamia Alumni Association president Shifa ur Rehman – who has been detained under UAPA in connection with the Delhi riots – to meer his lawyer.

Hearing a petition by Rehman, Justice Vibhu Bakhru observed, according to the Indian Express, “In this country, you cannot simply pick somebody and put him in jail and tell him that you cannot meet even your lawyer.”

The newspaper reported that the court was hearing a petition regarding the extended time period granted to the Delhi Police’s Special Cell to probe the UAPA case registered against Rehman and others. Most of the accused are activists and students who were involved in the anti-Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) protests.

The petition alleged that Rehman’s lawyers were not granted access to their client despite orders passed by a lower court in July. Rehman’s counsel advocate Amit Bhalla argued that the “hearings provided before courts to him are no hearings in absence of a lawyer”, according to the Indian Express.

The jail authorities contended that Rehman had declined to attend a video meeting with his lawyer and that opportunities were provided to him or his counsel for the purpose. They said Rehman was provided the opportunity to interact with his family members and legal counsel 16 times between May and August over the phone.

Arrangements for video a conference were made on July 21 and August 5, the authorities said, but on the first instance, Rehman was not well and declined to attend the meeting and on the second instance, there were connectivity issues.

At this juncture, the court observed, “You have frustrated every attempt for the person to meet his lawyer.” The judge asked the authorities to bring on record all documents or material to support the statement that Rehman was provided with the opportunities to meet his counsel.

According to the Indian Express, Rehman’s counsel, in his reply to the status report, told the court that the jail authorities were “not taking steps to organise the video meet despite repeated emails”. He said though the counsel has to generate the link for a video conference and intimate jail authorities a day in advance, he was not aware of two meetings held July 12 and August 8. He added that on September 11, though joined a video link that was sent as per prior communication, no one from the jail joined the conference.

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