Law Insider India

Legal News, Current Trends and Legal Insight | Supreme Court of India and High Courts

Gujarat High Court Rebukes Income Tax Department Officials for Unlawful Raid on Advocate

2 min read
Gujarat High Court in day light, with a small camera in the left bottom corner.

LI Network

Published on: December 07, 2023 at 17:18 IST

The Gujarat High Court rebukes officials from the Income Tax Department for allegedly conducting a raid on an advocate’s premises and seizing digital and physical files/documents without a warrant.

The court issued show cause notices to the erring officials, demanding an explanation for their actions.

Describing the Income Tax Department’s approach as ‘unexpected,’ the bench, consisting of Justice Bhargav D. Karia and Justice Niral Mehta, firmly instructed the department’s counsel to return the seized documents and issue a public apology to avoid further consequences.

The court expressed bewilderment over the department’s authority to confiscate documents from a professional that pertain to other individuals in a professional capacity. It questioned the legal basis for the department’s exercise of such power.

The contested documents in this case were related to a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) concerning two transactions managed by the advocate in his professional capacity.

Emphasizing the adverse impact of such search and raid practices on the public, the court asserted that this approach instills fear and hinders individuals from performing their duties without apprehension. The court categorically stated that allowing such actions would endanger the safety of professionals in the country.

The bench strongly criticized the department’s exercise of power, likening it to the emergency era of 1976-77. It questioned the officials’ actions, likening them to police officers collecting documents, and decried the ‘atrocious power’ exercised in this instance.

The court underscored that such searches should not be permitted, especially when documents of an advocate are seized in their professional capacity.

Senior Advocate Mukul Rohatgi, representing the petitioner, argued that the advocate was not allowed to go to the High Court for three days after the search, characterizing it as a breach of the right to privacy.

In response, the Gujarat High Court directed all concerned Income Tax Department officials to file individual replies and remarked, “Let them also spend money on the lawyers. Let us see which lawyer appears for them.”