Delhi Police Moves to Search Lawyer Mehmood Pracha’s Office Again
Pracha said he is moving an application in court to ensure his computer does not get seized.
“About a hundred Delhi Police officials came to visit my office and take my computer today. I was not there, one of my clients told me. Then the officials called and said they had reached my office premises for a raid,” Advocate Mehmood Pracha, who is handling several cases of the February 2020 Northeast Delhi violence, told The Quint.
He and two of his team members alleged that the Delhi Police made a move to raid his office at a time when he was not present there himself.
What The Search Warrant States
The Delhi Police special cell obtained a search warrant on 4 March from the concerned court to seize a computer from Pracha’s office. The warrant, accessed by The Quint, states, “This is to authorize and require the investigating officer of this case to search and seize the computer having primary evidence/document which was identified on the previous search which is present at the office premises of Mr Mehmood Pracha.”
The order authorising the search states, “It is also directed that Ld Advocate be informed politely about the search proceedings to be carried out at his premises.” Contrary to what the court order states, Pracha claims that he was not informed of any such search. “They reached around 12 noon. At least a hundred of them showed up at my doorstep without ‘politely informing’ me about anything. The police officials knew I would not be present in office as I was undertaking a cross-examination of a Special Cell case, when they showed up at my office. Hence, I decided to go straight to court,” Pracha said.
“I am moving an application against this search warrant as the question about the earlier raid of the police being successful or not, is already pending before this court. There is the Delhi Police’s application that we did not allow them to conduct their search, and there is our application that states that the raid was completed and then Delhi Police officials returned to my office premises. Both are pending before the court. So without deciding on the applications, the same judge has given another search warrant.”
The Quint has reached out to Delhi Police for a response, the copy will be updated as and when it comes.
The last time Delhi Police Special Cell had searched the office of Mehmood Pracha was on 24 December, last year. The police action against him had triggered outrage, with several senior advocates and activists alleging that the search was a brazen violation of attorney-client privilege.
What is The Case About?
In a press note issued by Deputy Commissioner of Police from Delhi Police Special Cell Manishi Chandra after the first raid, details of the searches conducted at advocate Mehmood Pracha’s office were revealed. The allegation against Pracha under FIR 212/2020 dated 22 August is regarding him creating a concocted/fabricated complaint for a victim of the northeast Delhi riots.
The victim is called Irshad Ali, who was allegedly made to depose falsely in front of the court. “These findings were supported by the witnesses of this case who had recorded their testimonies under Section 164 of CrPC before the concerned Hon’ble Courts,” the report read.
Ali, whose shop was allegedly burnt and looted during the northeast Delhi riots, told the court that he could not identify the accused named in his complaint as he did not know who the people were. This happened in August 2020, after which the additional sessions judge Vinod Yadav directed the police to investigate the allegations, pass appropriate directions, and requested the Delhi Commissioner of Police look into the matter.
In the police report from August 2020, they had explained the matter to the judge. The report stated, "During the investigation, he (Ali) was enquired about the names of Deepak, Navneet, and Mintu, as mentioned in his complaint. He said that he knows them by their names and does not know anything about them personally. He also stated that he does not identify the accused persons in the video."
PTI reported how the police report included Ali’s brother, Dilshad's statement as well. Dilshad had said they both were home when they got the call about the shop being looted and hence had not seen anyone looting their shop, contrary to the complaint submitted in his brother’s name.
Pracha says he is willing to risk self implication to protect the interest of other clients, “They want my computer, which I am not willing to give. Giving the entire computer will compromise the information of other clients whose life could be at stake. That is why, today I am making an offer and risking self implication in this matter by accepting that the statement in question was prepared at my office, using my computer, and sent using my office computer. I am willing to accept that to protect the interest of other clients which will be exposed if my computer is seized.”
The First Raid on Pracha’s Office
The Special Cell's search warrant issued on 22 December to the investigating officer of FIR 212/2020 that has been accessed by The Quint, reads: "Whereas information has been laid before me of the commission of offences punishable under section 182, 193, 420, 468, 471, 472, 473, 120B and it has been made to appear to me that incriminating data comprising false complaint and meta data of outbox of email account which was used to send incriminating documents are essential to the investigation of FIR 212/20 of Police Station Special Cell, New Delhi".
The various sections stand for the following, section 182 is false information with intent to cause public servant to use his lawful power to the injury of another person, section 193 is punishment for false evidence, section 420 is cheating and dishonestly inducing delivery of property, section 468 is forgery for purpose of cheating, section 471 using as genuine a forged document or electronic record, section 472 is making or possessing counterfeit seal, etc, with intent to commit forgery punishable under section , section 473 is making or possessing counterfeit seal, etc with intent to commit forgery punishable otherwise and section 120B is criminal conspiracy.
The warrant read, “This is to authorize and require investigating officer of this case to search for the said incrementing documents and meta data of out of box of email ID, wherever they may be found whether in computer or in the office/premises of Sh Mehmood Pracha.” It also directs the police to conduct the search during day hours and that there be videography of the search proceedings to ensure fairness.
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