New Delhi: The Delhi Police Thursday raided the office of advocate Mehmood Pracha, the defense counsel for multiple accused in the northeast Delhi riots cases, in connection with a case of forgery and criminal conspiracy filed against him in August this year.
The raid began at 12:40 pm and was continuing until the publishing of this article.
Pracha represents several of the accused in the Delhi riots cases, including student-activist Gulfisha Fatima who has been charged under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA).
According to a senior police officer, Pracha, while filing a bail petition, had filed an affidavit in the court that was allegedly notarised by a lawyer who had died in 2017. The police claim that since it was notarised by a lawyer who died two-and-a-half years ago, it was a false affidavit and the signatures in it were forged.
The Delhi Police also alleged that Pracha had instigated a man, Irshad Ali, to depose falsely in a northeast Delhi riots case.
“Irshad Ali had complained that his shop was looted in the riots in Dayalpur. When he was asked to identify the people who he had named in his complaint, he said that he cannot do it as he did not know who those people were,” a police officer said.
“Ali then stated that Pracha told him that he will attach his complaint with a similar case, in which the complainant was one Sharif, and the witnesses in his case, can depose for Ali as well,” the officer added. “Ali stated that Pracha told him that this way, it will make his case stronger and he will get an eyewitness of the incident.”
After the police raised these concerns before the Karkardooma court, the court had in August directed them to carry out a probe in the matter.
Additional Sessions Judge Vinod Yadav had said it would be appropriate if the matter was investigated by the crime branch or the special cell and had also requested the police commissioner to look into it and pass appropriate orders.
Following court orders, the Delhi Police had then registered an FIR under sections of forgery, cheating, conspiracy and giving out false information. “This was a clear violation. How can a lawyer create eyewitnesses and tell a complainant that he will ask those people to depose for him as well,” the officer quoted above said. “He is misleading the court.”
Pracha’s team denied the allegations, saying he was being “harassed” for fighting the Delhi riots cases.
“We have nothing to do with that case. Pracha hasn’t represented that person nor has he filed any such false affidavit. These are all baseless allegations,” Naved Khan, a member of Pracha’s team, told ThePrint.
“This is just an excuse to harass Pracha so that he drops all the Delhi riots cases,” Khan added.
Police search for ‘incriminating’ documents, email metadata
According to the police search warrant, accessed by ThePrint, the raid has been conducted by the Delhi Police Special Cell.
“It has been made to appear to me that incriminating documents 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 NO. 212/20 of Police station special cell, New Delhi,” the search warrant states.
The warrant mentions Indian Penal Code provisions including 120B (criminal conspiracy), 193 (false evidence), 420 (cheating), and 468 (forgery).
The warrant further states that the investigating officer is authorised to search for the “said incriminating documents … wherever they may be found whether in computer or in the office/premise of Sh. Mehmood Pracha”.
Police seizing computer violates attorney-client privilege: Pracha
In a video shared with ThePrint by Pracha’s team, the lawyer can be seen saying that the police isn’t permitted to seize his computer.
“You can watch and look through it, but you can’t seize the computer … I can’t break client-attorney privilege,” he can be seen saying.
According to Pracha’s team, the lawyer isn’t willing to give up the computer as it is a breach of the Evidence Act.
The concept of attorney-client privilege is mentioned in the sections 126 and 129 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872.
“No barrister, attorney, pleader or vakil shall at any time be permitted, unless with his clients express consent, to disclose any communication made to him in the course and for the purpose of his employment,” Section 126 states.
“No one shall be compelled to disclose to the Court any confidential communication which has taken place between him and his legal professional adviser, unless he offers himself as a witness,” Section 129 states.
The Bar Council of India Rules (BCIR) also stipulate the same, reiterating the spirit of the two Acts. “An advocate shall not, directly or indirectly, commit a breach of the obligations imposed by Section 126 of the Indian Evidence Act,” the Part VI, Chapter II, Section II, Rule 17 of the BCIR states.