SC issues notice to Centre on plea seeking civilised treatment of academic work seized in raids

The Supreme Court on Wednesday issued notice to the Centre in a plea filed by a group of academicians and researchers seeking directions to frame guidelines so that the police treat the academic work and research, usually stored in computers they seize during raids, in a civilised manner.

A Bench, headed by Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul, asked the Central government to file its response on the plea within four weeks.

“Senior counsel seeks to rely upon the guidelines in other parts of the world dealing with the subject matter. We think that at this stage it may be sufficient to first issue notice to respondent No 1- Union of India and get its response before considering whether notice is required to be issued to other States. Issue notice to respondent No 1 returnable in four weeks,” read the order.

The plea, filed by professors Ram Ramaswamy, Sujata Patel, M Madhava Prasad, Mukul Kesavan, and theoretical ecological economist Deepak Malghan, said academicians lose their life’s work when police carry off their computers and drives after raids.

The petition sought directions to the Central and State governments to frame down guidelines to govern probe agencies in the country with regard to seizure, examination, and preservation of personal digital and electronic devices and their contents.

Several persons from whom devices have been seized in various cases in the recent past are from the academic field or authors of repute, stated the plea.

It added, “The academic community does and stores its research and writing in the electronic or digital medium, and the threat of damage, distortion, loss or premature exposure of academic or literary work in the event of seizure of electronic devices is considerable.”

The entirely unguided power exercised by investigative agencies to take control of devices that “contain much, if not all, of a citizen’s personal and professional life, requires to be civilised” by way of directives from the Supreme Court, it added.

They said the copy of what is seized must remain with the accused in a form that cannot be modified.

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