Confusion and controversy surrounded a hours-long police search at the office of a lawyer representing some of the accused in the north-east Delhi riots case.
Delhi Police’s special cell on Thursday conducted searches at the office of senior advocate Mahmood Pracha at Nizamuddin in connection with a case filed against him. Pracha, however, filed a police complaint that imposters posing as police personnel visited his office and took information from his computers in pen drives.
The police denied this, and said the search was by them and that they had a court order.
A person from Pracha’s office, who did not wish to be named, said late on Thursday evening that police teams were still inside Pracha’s office.
During the day, a video of police personnel in plainclothes inside Pracha’s office at Nizamuddin was circulated on social media, which shows Pracha remonstrating with police personnel that he could not give the information that the police were seeking. Police personnel can be heard telling him in the video that they have a court order allowing them to search his office. In response, Pracha is heard citing attorney-client privilege that bars him from revealing information that was saved in one of the computer systems and that while the police are free to scan the computers in his office but he himself would not share any details with them.
The video also shows Pracha and the police arguing about the validity of the warrant.
Pracha represents several people accused of perpetrating violence or conspiring to cause the riots that ravaged north-east Delhi in February. His clients include Bhim Sena chief Chandrashekhar Azad and Gulfisha Fatima.
Pracha could not be reached for comment despite repeated calls to him and to his office. The person from his office cited above said that the police have seized the lawyer’s phone too. HT could not independently verify this.
Delhi Police said that they visited Pracha’s office in connection to a case. On August 22, police registered an FIR against Pracha after one of the riot victims told a court that the lawyer has asked him to fake a deposition and frame three people in riot cases. Police had then told the court that they had filed a case against Pracha for giving false information to the court, cheating, forgery and criminal conspiracy.
At the time itself, Pracha denied the police’s allegations and said that the case was meant to intimidate him. Pracha was also a prominent face of the protests against the citizenship amendment law .
In response to Pracha’s allegation about imposters raiding his office posing as police personnel, the police issued a statement on Thursday evening. It read: “During the course of a bail matter pertaining to an accused of the NED riots, use of a forged notary stamp and creation of allegedly false/manipulated evidence at the hands of certain members of the bar was noticed. The learned special court had observed that the same required thorough investigation. Pursuant to this, a criminal case under appropriate sections of law was registered and investigation was taken up.”
Police said that during investigation, search warrants were obtained from court to look for electronic and other evidence at two places and that they were executing the same on Thursday.