A Jaipur court on Tuesday acquitted 14 people, including serving and retired police officials, in the alleged fake encounter of Dara Singh, said to be involved in liquor smuggling, in 2006. One of the accused acquitted is A Ponnuchamy, an IPS officer currently posted as additional director general of police (ADG), police housing.
The court of Ramesh Joshi, additional district and session’s judge number 14, pronounced the judgment. Rajendra Rathore, a minister in the Vasundhara Raje cabinet, was also made an accused by the CBI in the case in 2011 — a district court discharged him in 2012.
“All 14 accused have been acquitted by the court, which proves that the case against all the accused was politically motivated,” A K Jain, counsel for one of the accused, said after the verdict. Singh was killed in an encounter in Rajasthan’s Churu district on October 23, 2006. His wife, Sushila Devi, had alleged that it was a staged encounter, and the Supreme Court ordered a CBI investigation following her petition.
Besides Ponnuchami, who was then the superintendent of the Special Operations Group (SOG) of Rajasthan Police, which carried out the encounter, another top officer accused in the case was ADG A K Jain, who then headed CID (Crime). Several police officials who were made accused in the case were then posted with the SOG. The Rajasthan High Court had discharged former ADG Jain in February 2015. Defence counsel Jain said the encounter took place when Dara Singh fired on SOG officials while they were searching a bus in Jaipur after getting information that Singh was in the city.
Jain said, “Some supporters of Singh, who had animosity with Rajendra Rathore, alleged that it was a fake encounter, allegedly done at Rathore’s behest since he (the BJP leader) was supporting another camp (of bootleggers in the district). This was not found true. The case was handed over to CBI in 2010 after the Congress government came to power in Rajasthan.”
Rathore was arrested in 2012; he was later discharged by court. Jain said, “The court has found that the encounter was genuine and several witnesses also turned hostile.” Sarfaraz Haidar Khan, public prosecutor appearing for the CBI, said the investigating agency will now decide the further course of action. “Circumstantial evidence gathered from the spot indicates that the encounter was fake. We will get a certified copy of the judgment and decide on further course of action,” he said.
Besides Ponnuchamy, the others acquitted on Tuesday are Arshad Ali, Satyanarayan Godara, Nisar Khan, Naresh Sharma, Subhash Godara, Rajesh Choudhary, Zulfiqar, Surendra Singh, Arvind Bhardwaj, Munshilal, Badriprasad, Jagram and Sardar Singh.
According to the CBI, two liquor smuggling gangs active in Churu district at the beginning of the millennium were led by Sumer Singh Fagadia and Virender Singh Nangli. The CBI chargesheet alleged that Rathore supported Nangli’s gang and offered it “protection”. The CBI believes the Nangli gang killed Fagadia in 2005, thus leaving Singh and an accomplice, Virendra Telia, in charge of the gang.
Thus began the feud between Rathore and Singh, which, the CBI chargesheet stated, led to Singh’s threat to kill the MLA if he did not stop supporting his rival. This, the CBI suspects, led to the alleged fake encounter.