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Sunday, October 24, 2021

‘Staff ducked for cover, judge ran to chambers’: Witnesses recall Rohini courtroom horror

The petition also prayed that X-Ray machines, CCTV and metal detectors already installed in various district courts be made operational since they were not functioning.

Written by Anand Mohan J | New Delhi |
Updated: September 25, 2021 4:40:52 pm
Screengrabs of shooting inside the Rohini court.

The two assailants were dressed like lawyers in black blazers, trousers, shoes, and a white-collar. But they stood out like a sore thumb as they walked into Rohini district court’s room number 207 – they didn’t bow before the judge, carried empty files, and hand their hands tucked in their pockets.

Next to them was advocate Tushar Mann, who was busy making mental notes for bail arguments.

“Something was off about them. They carried empty files and had their hands inside their pockets. Which lawyer carries an empty file into a courtroom?” he told The Indian Express.

Additional Sessions Judge Gagandeep Singh had just started hearing regular matters in his courtroom, which had 30 matters listed.

Around 1.15 pm, gangster Jitender Maan alias Gogi entered the courtroom, accompanied by members of the counter intelligence team. A handful of lawyers were inside the courtroom at the time.

“We all stood for the judge, but these two men did not. I was thinking they have no respect for the law. Then, they opened fire. The court staff ducked for cover, the judge ran towards his chamber. We all ran out of the courtroom. It was chaos,” Mann recalled.

Eyewitnesses recalled that while some hid behind almirahs containing case files as the shooting broke out, others froze in their place. Some litigants, meanwhile, rushed out with their children.

“I just ducked at my seat. I could not react,” said a court staff.

On August 28, ASJ Gagandeep had issued production warrants for Gogi and a co-accused from the rival gang, Sunil Mann. They were among six accused in an attempt to murder case registered at Alipur police station in 2010.

One of the co-accused in the case, Arun, was out on bail. His main counsel could not come to court, so junior advocate Nitin was sent instead.

He reached the courtroom early in the morning; this was the first case on the cause list. “The judge said that this was a high-security case and that he would take up the matter later,” Nitin said.

He marked his attendance at the court and stood outside as he saw Gogi being produced. The next date of hearing had been decided for December, and all that was left was for Gogi to sign the production warrant. He came accompanied by the security detail, his hands tightly clasped by an officer to ensure he does not flee.

“As I was waiting, I heard a lot of firing. Police took litigants out of the courtroom area first and lawyers were evacuated later,” Nitin said.

Right across ASJ Gagandeep’s courtroom is Additional Sessions Judge Shivaji Anand’s courtroom.

A crowd of litigants and lawyers stood outside. Among them was advocate Yogesh Pandey, who had seen a glimpse of Gogi before he stepped into the courtroom.

“We heard the sound of bullets. I tried to flee the area with my juniors. It was only when it turned quiet that we knew it was all over. It is shocking the assailants came dressed as lawyers,” he said.

In the evening, Rohini District Court Association members attended a meeting with the DCP (Rohini), DCP (Third Battalion) and both District Judges. “This was a total security lapse,” said Rohini Bar Association president Inder Singh Saroha.

Saroha has flagged the issue of security in the past too. In fact, during a meeting on Thursday, he had raised the issue of malfunctioning metal detectors. “We need the Delhi High Court model of security. In Rohini court, many gang-related cases are heard. There must be a security check of their associates who come to court; the vehicles need to be checked inside court premises and passes for litigants are a must. There will now be a security check of lawyers too,” Saroha said.

In February 2020, the Delhi High Court had heard a petition seeking an increase in the number of police officials in courts for the purpose of security. The hearing has not taken place since then on account of the pandemic.

The petition also prayed that X-Ray machines, CCTV and metal detectors already installed in various district courts be made operational since they were not functioning.

And in an order passed on January 28 this year, Principal District and Sessions Judges Suresh Kumar Gupta and Swarana Kanta Sharma spelt out the protocol to be followed while producing undertrial prisoners.

Courts have stressed the need for the physical production of the accused “only when necessary”, and if the proceedings can be conducted by exempting the undertrial prisoners, the same be preferred.

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