A court in Delhi on Friday directed the police to file a response on how it proposes to retrieve data from advocate Mehmood Pracha’s pen drive without disclosing information related to the lawyer’s other clients, Bar and Bench reported.

Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Pankaj Sharma of Patiala House Court asked the Delhi Police to file its response on the matter by March 19, the next date of hearing, Live Law reported.

Pracha, who has been fighting cases on behalf of many accused in the large-scale communal violence that broke out in the Capital in February 2020, had approached the court on March 10, challenging the Delhi Police Special Cell’s search warrants after they raided his office. The court had stayed the search warrants till March 12.

The police had searched Pracha’s office in December too.

In Friday’s hearing, the court cited Section 126 of the Indian Evidence Act to the police, to underline the importance of data related to Pracha’s clients.

“The protection available under Section 126 of Indian Evidence Act makes it imperative for that the court protect the data/files relating to communication of clients with applicant stored in the hard disk from interference of police while collecting target data,” Sharma said, according to Bar and Bench.

The court also took note of the fact that Pracha had given his consent for furnishing “target data”, or the information that police sought in their search warrant, through a pen drive or computer, Live Law reported. The court then asked police to explain how they wanted to receive the data without creating “evidentiary vulnerabilities”, and “retrieve target data without alternation to meta data associated with target data to prevent further evidential vulnerabilities”.

In his plea challenging the search warrants, Pracha submitted that the Delhi Police’s demand to take away the hard disks of his computers were “completely illegal and unjustified” and that the information asked for were “already in their possession from the previous [December] exercise”.

Pracha sought orders from the court directing the police to retrieve only the relevant information from the hard disk of his computer in the presence of a magistrate, as opposed to seizing the entire hard disk.

In his arguments on March 10, Pracha contended that the police wanted to target his clients and accused the police of acting “under their political masters”.