The Special Cell of Delhi Police searched the Nizamuddin East office of lawyer Mahmood Pracha Thursday.
Pracha’s firm Legal Axis is defending several persons accused in different cases related to the Delhi riots in February this year – these cases include those in which sections of the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) have been invoked.
In August, police told a Delhi court that Pracha had forged documents and instigated a man to depose falsely in a case related to the riots. Additional Sessions Judge Vinod Yadav, in an order, had said “it would be appropriate if the matter is investigated by an independent agency like Crime Branch or Special Cell”. An FIR was filed in the matter.
According to Pracha’s associate, advocate Digvijay Singh, the law firm is handling nearly 150 riot-related cases, including one filed against student activist Gulfisha Fatima, who is in judicial custody in a UAPA case.
Additional PRO (Delhi Police) Anil Mittal said, “During the course of a bail matter pertaining to an accused in the Northeast Delhi 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 Special Court had observed that this required thorough investigation. Pursuant to this, a criminal case under appropriate sections of law was registered and investigation was taken up.”
“During the course of investigation, search warrants to look for electronic and other evidence from the premises of two members of the Bar were obtained from the Court and the same are being executed in a professional manner at one location in Nizamuddin and another at Yamuna Vihar,” he said.
The search warrant, issued on December 22 under Section 93 of the CrPC, states, “This is to authorise and require investigating officer of this case to search for the said incriminating documents and metadata of outbox of email ID… wherever they may be found whether in computer or in the office/premises… including outbox of email ID… as well as other offices/premises where presence of such evidence are detected during the search/investigation, and, if found, to produce the same forthwith before this court.”
Policemen barred entry to Pracha’s Nizamuddin East office while the searches were on. In the evening, from the second floor balcony, Pracha said, “My phone has been seized. I am being threatened. I have told them they can take things from my computers, from my office and even my home. At the end of the day, the Constitution will win. It is not so weak… We will ensure that each and every riot victim gets justice.”
Lawyers working with Pracha filed an application with CMM Pankaj Sharma against the seizure of material. It is expected to be heard Friday.
The application seeks a clarification from the IO of the search warrant, stating that the team is “being compelled to provide alleged documents and is also being told that in failure to do so all the computers, documents etc at the said premises will be seized”.
Senior advocate Indira Jaising, in a Twitter post, described the searches as “a direct attack on the fundamental right of the right to legal representation” and said “all lawyers must condemn this attack”.
Senior advocate Chander Uday Singh said: “This raid will have a chilling effect on legal representation if lawyers’ records are randomly searched and seized.”
Lawyer Prashant Bhushan said: “The targeting of lawyers who are defending those who have been framed is the next step in this conspiracy to frame protestors, activists and their lawyers in the guise of an investigation.”
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