Irshad Ali, whose shop was burnt and looted during the Northeast Delhi riots and whose case is at the centre of the Special Cell’s searches at advocate Mehmood Pracha’s office, has told The Indian Express that he had approached Pracha after he found that police had wrongly named his friends as accused in the case. This is in contrast to the police’s submission in court in August, which stated that it was Pracha who called Ali to his office to instigate him to depose falsely in the case.
A sessions court order dated August 22 mentions the report submitted by the Northeast district police: “He (Ali) stated that one lawyer namely Mehmood Pracha called him to his office and told him that he has a complainant of similar incident and there is also an eyewitness named Sharif… who witnessed the whole incident as he was present there on 24th and 25th February,” reads the order. It was on the basis of this police report that the court had ordered an inquiry, and later issued a search warrant for Pracha’s office.
Ali told the Indian Express: “I registered an FIR on February 25 against unknown persons because I didn’t know who looted my shop. Later, when I saw the CCTV footage outside my shop, my friends recognised three locals — Navneet, Mintu and Deepak. However, the investigating officer forced me to write the name of my friends in the FIR. I refused to do so and left. In May, my friend Yusuf told me that his brother Gulfam was arrested for looting my shop. I told Yusuf that I didn’t name his brother and that he wasn’t seen in the CCTV footage either. Yusuf asked me to help him and took me to Pracha’s office,” said Ali.
At Pracha’s office, Ali told Pracha about his complaint and about the three men — Deepak, Navneet and Mintu — who he believed had looted his shop.
“I found out that some of my acquaintances and friends — Abid, Arshad, Gulfam — along with ex-councillor Tahir Hussain have been named in my FIR. The investigating officer wrote their names in my complaint without my permission. How is that possible? I saw the CCTV footage myself. None of these men were at my shop and why would my friends set my shop on fire? On the day of the incident, I had tried to go check my shop. There was barricading all over. We (Muslims) weren’t allowed to go where the mob was. I don’t want to blame a community but I am sure that my friends weren’t there. I told this to the IO but he didn’t listen to me,” alleged Ali.
According to the police report submitted to the court in August, Pracha told Ali that he has an eyewitness named Sharif, who had reported a similar incident, and asked Ali to add Sharif’s complaint to his case.
The police report read: “Pracha also said that if the complaint of Sharif is attached with your (Ali’s) complaint, it will make your case stronger and you will get an eyewitness of incident regarding looting your shop. It is pertinent to mention here that the present complainant, Irshad Ali, does not know or met eyewitness Sharif ever.”
Speaking about this, Ali said Pracha showed him Sharif’s complaint, which mentioned that he had witnessed a mattress shop burning.
Ali said he then told Pracha that this was his shop. “Pracha sir told me to add Sharif’s complaint to make my case stronger. I don’t know Sharif personally, but the details about my shop in his complaint looked genuine, so I agreed,” said Ali.
When contacted, a senior officer from Special Cell said, “We are investigating a case which has arisen out of this report. It will take us time to verify and finalise everything.”
Pracha represents at least three accused in the “larger conspiracy case” in the Delhi riots and many other accused in riot cases registered by police. He has called the searches an attack on due process, legal profession and the Constitution of India.
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