The Counter Intelligence Unit of Delhi Police’s Special Cell has lodged an FIR against lawyer Mehmood Pracha after he and his associates allegedly abused and intimidated the police team during searches at his Nizamuddin East office two days ago.
The FIR was registered under IPC sections 353 (assault or criminal force to deter public servant from discharge of his duty) and 186 (obstructing public servant in discharge of public functions) after a complaint was filed by an investigating officer (IO) of the Special Cell on Thursday.
Pracha’s firm Legal Axis is defending several persons accused in different cases related to the Delhi riots. Many in the legal fraternity described the police search as an attack against the attorney-client privilege and on the fundamental right to legal representation.
Police said the Special Cell had gone to his office to investigate an FIR registered in August, which alleged false evidence and forged notary stamps were used to secure bail of an accused arrested in a riots case. Police alleged the complaint letter used to get bail in the case was sent from Pracha’s office computer. A Delhi court had issued a search warrant on December 22 to look for the incriminating documents.
Pracha refused to comment on the mail pertaining to the complaint letter. On Friday, he had moved court seeking clarification on the search warrant order issued by the Special Cell, alleging he was directed by the personnel to provide incriminating material against himself.
Pracha had said: “I unlocked all computers and the office was given to the police to conduct their search. However, the police personnel, who was not even the IO as per the warrant, directed us to show that material ourselves, and if not, they threatened to take away our computers.”
“The search ended at 3 am and they could not find anything. Even though police are alleging misconduct on our behalf, they recorded everything on video and that video will show to the world what happened,” he said.
In the FIR, the IO said he left his office with staff, videographers and public witnesses and reached Pracha’s office at 11.45 am on Thursday.
“On reaching the spot, we started videography… and showed the search warrant to Pracha. We requested him in writing to cooperate in locating the computer wherein the incriminating documents may be found so as to avoid the general search of all the systems. Pracha informed us that he was engaged in a video call and asked us to wait. We waited patiently for two hours. Thereafter, he started harassing us over one pretext or another and, gradually, started getting aggressive and abusive…,” reads the FIR.
Police said Pracha later agreed to cooperate and showed the team the computer system from which the mail was sent. “After a lot of patient persuasion, he led us to a computer on his office table… and said the email that we are looking for may be located in the mail outbox,” said the IO in the FIR.
A senior police officer claimed that “the complaint letter, containing fabrications, which was drafted in his (Pracha’s) office, pertaining to the complainant… was located”. Police claimed they asked Pracha to help them look for other incriminating documents but he refused.
The IO then found another computer system at his office and typed keywords into the system to look for similar documents. He said in his complaint, “A suspicious extension/pathway was noticed and, therefore, I decided to seize the hard disk of the said computer to collect necessary evidence. Pracha and his associates started raising their voice and attempted to remove the computer systems.”
The police team then gave a written request to Pracha and his associates for the hard disk.
Police claimed on receiving the request, Pracha “became verbally aggressive and started creating a ruckus with a clear intent to precipitate things and provoke some kind of violent/forceful/unprofessional response from us”.
The FIR also mentions that Pracha called several associates to “intimidate” the IO and his team.