A Delhi court Monday convicted a man, accused of being an Indian Mujahideen (IM) operative, for his role in the 2008 Batla House encounter and observed that he was a “trained criminal” and not “an ordinary individual”. It further observed that the accused, Ariz Khan, “intentionally and knowingly committed murder” of Special Cell Inspector Mohan Chand Sharma during the encounter.
Additional Sessions Judge Sandeep Yadav, while convicting the accused, said, “The evidence adduced on record by prosecution, including ocular evidence, documentary evidence and scientific evidence, leaves no manner of doubt that prosecution in the instance case has successfully proved charges framed against the accused beyond any reasonable doubt.”
The court will hear arguments on sentencing on March 15.
Khan, who had been on the run for a decade before he was arrested by the Delhi Police Special Cell in 2018, has been convicted under several IPC sections including 302 (punishment for murder) and 307 (attempt to murder).
On September 13, 2008, serial blasts had rocked Delhi leaving 39 dead and 159 injured. On September 19, Inspector Mohan Chand Sharma received information that the accused persons, alleged to be IM operatives involved in the blasts, were at a building in Jamia Nagar’s Batla House. As the police team entered the house, they were shot at and Sharma died in the encounter. Two accused persons sustained injuries and died during treatment while two others managed to flee.
One of the accused, Shahzad Ahmad, was arrested in 2010 and sentenced to life imprisonment in 2013. During the trial, Ariz’s lawyer M S Khan had argued that “it has come on record that no person could have escaped from the building as there was one common entry and exit”.
The court, in its judgment, noted: “The court can presume that accused escaped through the staircase. It is probable because the person who escaped was not an ordinary person, he was a trained criminal and could have easily managed anyone who might have encountered him in the staircase.”
The court noted that the “last call in the recorded conversation proved the presence of the accused at Batla House, therefore, it is most likely that the accused would have been there at the time of occurrence.”
It also noted that “no nakabandi was done in the area. Police officials who were deployed outside the building were moving to conceal their identity. Hence, there was a possibility to escape.”
The convict’s lawyer submitted that “serious doubt has arisen about identity of accused as the same person who was present in the building in question at the relevant time and who fired on police party”. He submitted that a sub-inspector’s complaint shows the names of escaped terrorists as Junaid alias Pappu and “there is no evidence to show that Junaid… was also known as Ariz Khan”.
The court noted that this contention was not raised during the trial and agreed with Additional Public Prosecutor A T Ansari that “prosecution, at the stage of arguments, cannot be surprised by raising a new plea which was never taken during trial”.
Khan said none of the witnesses had given a physical description of Ariz and the “identification of accused by witnesses in court after a gap of almost 10 years is of no consequence”. The court said, “It is not the case of the accused that he has a special feature or mark of identification expected to be observed by eyewitnesses to identify him.”
Khan had also argued that “there is no testimony of any neighbour of the flat to the effect that accused Ariz Khan was the occupant of the flat in question”. The court said, “In the present social condition prevailing in Delhi, neighbours would not even be knowing as to whether accused Ariz Khan was the occupant of the flat in question or not.”