New Delhi, March 10: A Delhi court on Wednesday stayed the operation of search warrants issued against advocate Mehmood Pracha, who is representing some of the accused in the cases related to the Delhi Riots in February last year.
Pracha’s office was raided by the Delhi Police on Tuesday in connection with an FIR alleging that the advocate tutored a witness to initiate a false riots case.
Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Pankaj Sharma, who passed the directions on an application filed by Pracha, said “till the pendency of this application, the search warrants issued against the applicant is stayed.”
The court reserved its order for March 12 on the advocate’s plea which had also sought a direction to the police to retrieve only relevant information from his hard disk in the presence of a Magistrate.
Pracha said that a soft copy of the material was as good as a hard copy under the Information Technology Act.
“They want to threaten my clients. That’s their purpose. In the main Delhi riots cases they say soft copy is equal to hard copy and we would not give hard copy of charge sheet. Here they don’t want soft copy,” he said.
During the course of arguments the advocate also argued that it was clear from the video of the riots in question that his complaint was not false. “Larger issues are involved. (The) Entire judicial system is involved. I’m willing to sacrifice myself to save the Constitution. Please protect my clients, (the) Constitution and Evidence Act,” he added.
Delhi police opposed Pracha’s plea, saying that seizing the original hard disk was essential as it ought to be sent to a forensic science laboratory for examination and that a mirror hard disk can be put back into his computer.
The application said that the purpose of obtaining a search warrant was to yet again threaten, intimidate and frighten him.
This was not the first time that Pracha found himself being acted upon by the police after having taken up the riots’ cases. On December 24, 2020, Pracha’s office was raided during the course of an investigation of allegations that he had “tutored” some victims and witnesses in the riots case to give “false statements”.
The Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) and the Bar Association of India had condemned the raids back then. “The seizures of confidential information which is protected by lawyer-client privilege, in a search conducted by the very police authorities who are prosecuting the lawyer’s clients, will prejudicially affect the rights and guarantees of the accused. It is illegal and contravenes all cannons of protection to a client and his lawyer,” an SCBA statement had mentioned.
The police had claimed that it was searching for “incriminating documents” and meta data of the outbox of the official email id of his firm.
The advocate had later moved the court seeking preservation of copies of the video footage of the raids conducted by Delhi Police at his office on December 24. A court had directed the preservation of the entire video footage of the police raid at Pracha's premises.
With PTI inputs