New Delhi: Senior members of the legal fraternity including Justice B.G. Kolse Patil, a former judge of the Bombay high court, and Supreme Court advocates Chander Uday Singh and Prashant Bhushan said the raids conducted by the Delhi police at advocate Mehmood Pracha’s office on December 24, were mala fide.
Pracha has been defending several persons accused by the Delhi police and its special cell, including those accused in the Delhi riots cases.
The raid, which began at at his office in Nizamuddin West at 12:40 pm continued till around 3 am on December 25 in relation to a case in which a Delhi court had asked the Delhi police to probe allegations that Pracha had asked a riot victim to fake a deposition and frame three people in riot cases.
The police had filed a case against Pracha for giving false information to the court, cheating, forgery and criminal conspiracy. Pracha has denied the allegations multiple times and described it as an attempt to intimidate him.
He had said the raids were conducted at the behest of Union home minister Amit Shah because he was trying to establish Shah’s links with the violence in northeast Delhi in February last year.
Speaking to media on Wednesday to condemn the raids against Pracha, law practitioners said that the raids raised several disturbing questions. They accused the Delhi police of “targeting” Pracha for standing by the side of victims and exposing big names who were responsible for inciting violence in northeast Delhi.
“Why was it necessary to search his computers and information contained in it in order to get access to an email which is stated to have been sent to various authorities including the commissioner of police, heading the Delhi police…this is a gross violation of law by the police and totally mala fide,” a statement issued by them read.
The statement added that the search warrant authorises the investigation officer to look into the meta data of an email address in the guise of executing this warrant. However, it said, it was illegal for police to have allegedly wanted to seize the hard disks of Pracha’s computers.
Pracha had tried to prevent such an invasion of privacy from taking place as it was not authorised by the search warrant, the statement read. “However, the police got access to his computer, inserted devices to access and take away whatever information they wanted or could access from his computers, in an operation lasting about 15 hours.”
Even though it is mandated that search proceedings by police are to be videographed, no such video has been made available to Pracha, the statement added.
Further, it said, “Assuming for a moment that it was impossible for the Special Cell to obtain copies of the emails from the recipient, including the commissioner of police, why was no summon or order issued under Section 91 of the CrPC calling upon Pracha to produce the allegedly incriminating documents before taking recourse to the drastic remedy of a search and seizure operation?”
They further alleged that the use of Section 93 of the CrPC to conduct a search was not only illegal but a violation of the Evidence Act and Bar Council Files, and a mala fide attempt by the police to intimidate and harass Pracha.
Lawyer Prashant Bhushan said that it was important to come out and register a protest. “It is time to come out on the streets, not just because of this particular incident, but because of the pressure on the Supreme Court.”
Pracha and Justice Patil said that a large scale march is being planned to expose the illegality and to condemn police raids. Earlier, the Supreme Court Bar Association, Bar Association of India, and the Bar Council of Delhi had also condemned the police raids against Pracha.