Former Delhi Police head constable Abdul Nazir Kunju, who was the first to reach the tandoor murder case crime scene in 1995, has after 23 years won a case in the Supreme Court against his department, with the court directing police to give him all benefits as per his seniority within two months.
Kunju’s testimony was crucial to the case against Delhi Youth Congress president Sushil Sharma, who was convicted for killing his wife Naina Sahni and burning her body in a restaurant tandoor. Speaking from his home in Kerala, where he shifted after taking voluntary retirement so he could care for his ailing mother, Kunju told The Indian Express that he was disappointed with the approach of his department, but satisfied with the top court’s verdict.
“I got an out of promotion in 1995 for my outstanding work in the tandoor murder case, but I have got increment of Rs 5 and after the Fifth Pay Commission, my salary was lower than my juniors. I discovered that they gave me a promotion on paper, but not the seniority and benefits of becoming head constable. Initially, I requested my seniors to look into the matter and they assured me they would, but did nothing. Later, I went to Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) in 2006 against my department and an order was passed in my favour in 2011,” he said.
Kunju said he broke down after he found that his department had decided to fight a legal battle against him and had filed an appeal at the Delhi High Court against the CAT’s order in 2012.
“Out of frustration, I decided to take voluntary retirement. I was the only star witness in the case and had been offered Rs 10 lakh to change my testimony against Sushil Sharma, the accused in the tandoor murder case. When I refused, I received several threats. But despite showing courage, my department refused to acknowledge my work, so I left Delhi. In 2013, the [Delhi HC] order came in my favour but the department again challenged it before the Supreme Court,” he said.
Kunju’s advocate Anil Singhal said, “The Supreme Court has passed an order in our favour and directed the Delhi Police to give him seniority from the time of his promotion and give him his arrears as per his seniority.”
Recalling the events of July 2, 1995, Kunju said he was posted at Connaught Place police station and was on night duty. “I was patrolling with home guard Chander Pal. We had reached the side lane of Ashok Yatri Niwas on Ashoka Road around 11.25 pm when we heard locals screaming that there was a fire in the hotel,” he said.
“From over the wall, we saw smoke and flames inside Bagiya Barbeque restaurant… I rushed to make a call on my wireless,” Kunju said, adding that he later entered the restaurant and found co-accused Keshav Kumar near the tandoor, putting pieces of wood inside.
Keshav told Kunju he was a Congress worker and was burning some old posters. “I saw Sharma standing at the restaurant gate. He also claimed banners were being burnt. Later, the fire was doused,” he said.
Sensing something fishy, Kunju decided to check the tandoor and found a body in the embers. “It was destiny that Sharma was spotted at the scene of crime,” he said.
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