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.
Seconds after the verdict was pronounced, 36-year-old Rana asked the judge why he was convicted while all others were released. “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 for 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 court fixed the matter for final arguments and pronouncement of judgment for August 12.
The 10 who have been acquitted include Rana’s brother Vijay Singh Rana alias Vicky, Dhan Prakash, Shekhar Singh, Rajender Singh alias Ravinder 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. Vicky, Shekhar Singh, Rajbir Singh and Shravan Kumar were produced from judicial custody.
Commenting on the judgment, 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. We are satisfied with the judgment. For 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. However, I haven’t received the judgment yet and I cannot comment on why the judge has ruled out this deposition.”
On July 25, 2001, Devi was shot dead at point blank range by three masked gunmen outside her Ashoka Road residence. The 37-year-old was returning home from Parliament for lunch when the incident took place.
The Delhi Police had chargesheeted 12 men on charges of murder, attempt to murder, criminal conspiracy, perjury and sections of the Arms Act. The police had accused the 12 of conspiring to kill Devi to avenge the 1981 Behmai massacre, wherein Devi had allegedly killed men belonging to the Thakur community. They were also accused of attempting to murder Devi’s security guard.
Police had said that Rana, the prime accused, 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 the police.
”Investigations were conducted to ascertain whether there was any motive, other than the political aspirations of Sher Singh Rana, for Devi’s murder. These have, however, drawn a blank… there was no one else, except those arrested and being mentioned in the chargesheet either in the conspiracy or in the execution of the conspiracy,” the chargesheet had said.
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 Devi 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. Later, Rana fired indiscriminately at Phoolan, who fell to the ground, police said. Vicky fired at her bodyguard, who returned fire, the chargesheet stated. While fleeing the crime scene, they dropped their country-made pistols, police said.
Police had recovered the cars, weapons, including a Webley Scot revolver, mobile phones, SIM cards and the clothes worn by the accused at the time of the offence.
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.