Sharif Malik, whose allegations form the basis of Delhi Police’s controversial search of advocate Mehmood Pracha’s home last week, was accused of rioting and attempt to murder in the Delhi riots. But a month ago, police told the court that Malik’s arrest wasn’t required.
On November 24, Malik secured pre-arrest bail in three FIRs connected to the riots filed at Dayalpur police station, with little opposition from the prosecution.
Police, in a report submitted to a Delhi court in August, said that Pracha “called” riot victim Irshad Ali, whose shop had been set on fire during the riots, and told him that Malik was “witness” to the incident and if he attached Malik’s complaint, it would make Ali’s case “stronger”.
Ali denies Pracha called him, and has told The Indian Express that he went to meet him on his own.
Ali’s case itself is fraught, according to the sequence of events based on police and court records accessed by The Indian Express.
Indeed, the court put on record the defence’s questioning of the fairness and impartiality of the Delhi Police in this case.
March 4, 2020: On February 24, Irshad Ali complained to police that his rented mattress shop at Moonga Nagar was ransacked and set ablaze by a mob, resulting in a loss of Rs 17-18 lakh to him and Rs 10 lakh to store-owner Rekha Garg.
Delhi Police named several people, including councillor Tahir Hussain, former member of the Aam Aadmi Party; Gulfam; Mohd Abid; Arshad Qayyum; Shahdab; Shah Alam; Riyasat Ali and Rashid Saifi as accused in this case.
August 7-8: During the hearing of bail pleas of two of these accused, Abid and Qayumm — both represented by lawyer Javed Ali — Additional Sessions Judge Vinod Yadav was told about two subsequent complaints by Irshad Ali in May and July.
In these, Irshad Ali alleged that police had falsely implicated the accused in the case and that “the persons who looted his shop are not Muslims”.
August 10: Lawyer Javed Ali included Irshad Ali’s complaints in the bail application of Abid and Qayyum. The court asked the DCP (North-East) to file a report on these complaints by Irshad Ali.
August 22: The Delhi Police filed its report in court that Irshad Ali had now named three residents — Deepak, Navneet alias Nanu, and Mintu — but when called before ACP (Gokalpuri), he said he knew them only by name and did not identify them in the video.
Police said that Irshad Ali told them that Pracha — who was initially representing another accused Gulfam in the same case — called him to his office and told him that he has an eyewitness, namely Sharif Malik. And that if Irshad Ali attaches Malik’s complaint to his own, Ali’s case would become stronger.
In their report submitted to the court on August 22, the police made two key allegations:
One, the statement by Malik, himself wanted in a similar case registered at Dayalpur police station, that he “witnessed the whole incident” of rioting was “false, concocted and fabricated” by Pracha and sent to various offices by him through his email ID.
Two, Irshad Ali’s July 2020 affidavit — confirming on oath the complaints attached were his — which was part of Abid and Qayyum’s bail petition, was found attested by Notary Public Sanjay Saxena, who had died three years ago.
Saxena’s wife Sangeeta Saxena is said to have told the police that she has no knowledge of any document attested by her husband’s stamp.
ASJ Yadav, in his order on August 22, said the matter should be investigated either by the Crime Branch or Special Cell and asked the Delhi Police Commissioner to pass appropriate directions.
The Special Cell registered an FIR on August 22 alleging false complaint, false evidence and forgery.
August 27: ASJ Yadav said that Delhi Police Commissioner himself had informed the court that an FIR had been registered and that “progress of investigation shall be submitted” before the court “as and when directed”.
November 24: Delhi Police didn’t oppose the anticipatory bail pleas filed by Sharif Malik in an rioting and attempt to murder case, and two similar cases registered by Dayalpur police station.
The Public Prosecutor submitted that “the applicant has joined the investigation and for the present, he is not required to be arrested in the matter. However, it is requested that the applicant may be directed to continue to join the investigation,” the court said while granting pre-arrest bail to Sharif on separate but similar orders in the three cases.
December 3:The Delhi High Court granted bail to Riyasat Ali, who had also been named as an accused in the Irshad store looting case. It said that the presence of Riyasat Ali “is not established through CCTV footages/at the spot”. “… however, without commenting on the merits of the prosecution case, I am of the view that the petitioner deserves bail,” the court said. Similarly, Shah Alam, and Mohd Rehan were also granted bail. On December 9, Gulfam was granted bail by a Delhi court.
December 17: Qayyum and Abid were granted bail on grounds of parity. The Sessions Court of ASJ Yadav put on record three arguments made by the defence on the handling of the case by the Delhi Police.
That both had been “falsely implicated” by the police; that investigation in the matter “has not been conducted in an impartial and fair manner”; and that persons “belonging to a particular community have been falsely roped in by the investigating agency”.
“There is no electronic evidence available against the applicants, either in the form of any CCTV footage(s) or their CDR location, which could prima facie show their presence at the scene of crime on the date of incident,” the court noted on the defence argument.
December 24: The Special Cell, issuing a notice to Pracha, said: “One complaint… by Sharif Malik… respect to arson and rioting… was drafted under your instruction on your computer in your office and got signature and thumb impression… in your office itself… Malik has denied having sent any of the copy… but several such complaints have been received in police station bearing name of… Malik.”
“Investigation conducted so far has provided reasonable substance in the allegations, so an order of search and seizure has been obtained… for recovery and seizure of incriminating documents from your office and computers,” the police said.
Asked about Malik being granted bail exactly a month before the searches, Ved Prakash Surya, DCP Northeast, said: “We never arrested Sharif. He filed for anticipatory bail and was granted the same by the court. We don’t think there’s any connection to Pracha here.”
A senior police officer from NorthEast district said, “Granting bail is the prerogative of the court. There might have been complaints against the accused and due to insufficient evidence, Malik was granted bail. The police are not involved here. Also, the district police gave a report to the court. Subsequent searches and investigation is done by Special Cell. The bails aren’t linked to the Special Cell investigation.”
Following the searches, police said that while advocate Javed Ali cooperated, it faced opposition during the searches at Pracha’s office.
In his computers, the Special Cell claimed, it was looking for “incriminating documents, allegedly drafted by him/on his instructions maybe” while referring to Malik’s complaint and the Section 160 CrPC reply given to police in the name of or behalf of complainant Irshad Ali.
In this reply, Irshad Ali is said to have spoken in favour of the accused persons.
Police have now filed another FIR against Pracha for allegedly obstructing the investigation during the search operation.
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 Constitution of India.
With Jignasa Sinha