Thirteen years after dacoit-turned-MP Phoolan Devi was shot dead outside her Ashoka Road residence in Delhi, a local court Friday convicted key accused Sher Singh Rana of murder while acquitting 10 others.
Minutes after the verdict was pronounced, 36-year-old Rana asked the judge, “Why have you convicted only me while others have been spared?” he said. The judge responded: “I have passed the judgment. If you wish, you can challenge it in the High Court.”
”Except Sher Singh Rana, I am acquitting all the accused. Rana is convicted of offences under Sections 302 (murder), 307 (attempt to murder) and 34 (common intention) under the IPC,” the court of Additional Sessions Judge Bharat Parashar said. The final arguments and pronouncement of judgment will take place on August 12.
The 10 who were acquitted include Rana’s brother Vijay Singh Rana, Dhan Prakash, Shekhar Singh, Rajender Singh, Keshav Chauhan, Praveen Mittal, Amit Rathi, Surender Singh Negi alias Suri, Shravan Kumar and Rajbir. In all, there were 12 accused. One of them, Pradeep Singh, died in November 2013 in Tihar Jail.
Suri’s counsel Bankim Kulshreshtha said, “Even if there were 1,700 witnesses, the case would not stand. All the evidence was fabricated. They had to be acquitted. In Rana’s case, we will challenge the judgment in the High Court.”
Public prosecutor Manisha Sharma said, “According to me, the prosecution witnesses supported the case of the prosecution. Constable Varinder had deposed in court that he saw Rana open fire at Phoolan Devi, while Dhan Prakash fired at him. The third accused, Shekhar, was also present at the crime scene, as deposed by Varinder. I haven’t received the judgment yet and I cannot comment on why the judge has ruled out this deposition.”
On July 25, 2001, Phoolan was gunned down by three masked men outside her Ashoka Road residence.
The Delhi Police had chargesheeted 12 men on charges of murder, attempt to murder, criminal conspiracy, perjury and sections of the Arms Act. Police had accused the 12 of conspiring to kill Phoolan to avenge the 1981 Behmai massacre, wherein Phoolan had allegedly killed men belonging to the Thakur community. Police had said that Rana wanted to establish himself as a Thakur leader by masterminding the killing. Any other motive behind the murder of the Samajwadi Party MP had been ruled out by police.
According to the police, Rana had procured weapons from his friend Rathi, owner of a gun shop in Roorkee. He came to Delhi along with Vicky, Shekhar, Rajbir, Uma Kashyap and her husband Vijay Kumar Kashyap in two Maruti cars at 10 am on the day of the murder, the chargesheet said.
Rana, who had driven Phoolan to Parliament, waited for her to come back for lunch, police said. After she got down from the vehicle, Rana fired at her head while Vicky pumped bullets into her stomach, police said. Vicky fired at her bodyguard, who returned fire, the chargesheet stated. While fleeing the scene, they dropped their pistols, police said.
Police had recovered the cars, weapons, including a Webley Scot revolver, and the clothes worn by the accused. Forensic examination of the bullets extracted from the body of the slain MP confirmed that they were fired from the weapons recovered from the accused, police had said.