A plea has been filed in Delhi High Court seeking directions for protection of attorney-client privileged communication that is presently taking place over virtual platforms on third-party apps. The plea suggested the constitution of an Expert Committee to look into the matter and thereafter frame rules for the same.
The petition has been filed by Advocate Akhil Hasija. It points out the communication platforms’ vulnerability towards cyber threats which can damage the reputation of a person and is potential enough to stymie the fair and impartial justice system of the country.
The problem has arisen due to the COVID-19 lockdown that has hampered the physical movements of lawyers and their clients and has subsequently made them completely dependent on online platforms with virtual communication facilities for discussing legal issues, cases, confidential information, and other related stuff. In the long term, this can prove to be counterproductive for the functioning of Courts and confidential communication shared between attorney and her clients, or even the parties to a case.
The petitioner mentioned that instead of physical meetings, virtual meetings are being conducted by attorneys and their clients over third-party applications.
He claims that a party enjoys control over the data shared and communication taken place between the attorney and her client. Such circumstances make it un-secure and receptive to misuse and criminal misappropriation thereof. This practice is indirectly in contravention to Section 126 of the Indian Evidence Act and destroys the sole intent of the said provision.
Section 126 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 states, “Professional Communication- No barrister, attorney, pleader or vakil shall at any time be permitted unless with his client’s express consent, to disclose any communication made to his in the course and for the purpose of his employment as such barrister, pleader, attorney or vakil, by or on behalf of his client, or to state the contents or condition of any document with which he has become acquainted in the course and for the purpose of his professional employment or to disclose any advice given by him to his client in the course and for the purpose of such employment.”
“The provisions of Section 126 shall apply to interpreters, and the clerks or servants of barristers, pleaders, attorneys, and vakils,” adds Section 127 of the Act.
The petitioner has adjoined the Bar Council of India, Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology, and Ministry of Law & Justice, and asked them to constitute an Expert Committee to deal with the issue. The Expert Committee would make rules/ amendments for the protection of privileged communication under Section 126 and Section 127 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 while conducting virtual meetings and conferences over third-party apps.