Rahul Sharma is a 1992 Gujarat cadre ex-IPS officer. He received a Bachelor of Technology degree in Electrical Engineering from Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur (IIT-K) in 1987. He also has a degree in law. He is known for dutiful work in the backdrop of 2002 Gujarat riots. Followed by the untimely death of his wife in 2013, he took retirement from the police service and started serving as a lawyer at Gujarat High Court.
When the 2002 Gujarat riots broke out on 28 February 2002, Sharma was the Superintendent of Police (SP) in Bhavnagar district, heading a 180-strong police force. He became widely known as one of the few district police chiefs to have "responded vigorously" to control the violence.
On the third day of the violence (2 March), a mob of about 10,000 people tried to set fire to a madrasa on the outskirts of Bhavnagar, a residential Muslim school sheltering 400 students. Sharma issued orders to open fire on the mob, causing injuries and some fatalities, thereby dispersing the mob and averting a disaster. Subsequently, he transferred the children to a safer location inside the city. His timely action was praised by L. K. Advani, the then Union Home Minister, in India's Parliament as well as in his autobiography. On the other hand, Narendra Modi, the then Chief Minister of Gujarat, was angry, according to Kingshuk Nag, complaining that he was "trying to seek cheap publicity and act like a hero."
Sharma's actions also angered the state home minister Gordhan Zadafia, who is reported to have said that "the ratio of deaths" due to police firing was "not proper," meaning that more Hindus than Muslims died due to police firing in Bhavnagar. Sharma also refused to release 21 miscreants arrested for attack on a mosque, as requested by BJP politicians. Local Gujarati newspapers complained that Hindus were not able to avenge the Godhra train burning. Sharma was transferred out of field operations on 24 March and posted as the deputy commissioner of police (DCP) in Ahmedabad's control room.
In his new role as the deputy commissioner in Ahmedabad, Sharma was asked to assist the Crime Branch of Ahmedabad in investigating the Gulberg Society and Naroda Patiya cases. Noting the allegations of complicity by police officers and political leaders in the riots, he suggested that their mobile phone records be examined to ascertain their movements. Accordingly, mobile phone 'call data records' (CDR) were requested from the local phone companies AT&T Wireles and CelForce. The Crime Branch chief, P. P. Pandey, asked Sharma to process the data himself since it was his idea, which required him to copy the data onto his home computer. Before he could complete the processing, Sharma was transferred out of his post again, in early July. He said that he handed over the CD's containing the data to Pandey through a messenger, but they became untraceable afterwards. Several years after the event, the Gujarat government claimed that Sharma did not submit the CDs and charged him with misconduct.
Since Sharma had a copy of the data on his home computer, he was able to copy it to CD's and submit it to the Nanavati-Shah commission and the Banerjee Committee in 2004, and the Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team later in 2008. The advocate Mukul Sinha representing Jan Sangharsh Manch asked for a copy of the CD from the Banerjee Committee and received it. This enabled lawyers, activists and victims to cite the data, implicating a number of political leaders and police officers, including Maya Kodnani, Jaideep Patel, Babu Bajrangi, police inspector K. K. Mysorewala and senior police officers M. K. Tandon and P. B. Gondia. Calls were also found to have been exchanged with the Home Minister Gordhan Zadafia and the Chief Minister's office in the midst of riots. But the Special Investigation Team did not take action against the senior police officers and politicians.
Sharma along with Jan Sangharsh Manch organized a rally for civil rights for Dalits in general and to protest the flogging of Dalit youths at Una, Gujarat in particular in August 2016.
In 2012, Sharma was awarded the Satyendra K. Dubey Memorial Award by the IIT-K alumni for having distinguished himself with highest professional integrity.
In Jun 2017, he declared to float a political party i.e. Smart Party along with some of his friends to contest upcoming assembly elections.