He was a ‘prince’ on the run for murder. Vikram Singh Puar, 26, is now ‘king’, out on a 15-day anticipatory bail.
On June 17, a special court in Dewas granted bail to Vikram Singh so that he could be crowned king and take over from his ailing father, Tukoji Rao Puar, a former BJP minister and ‘maharaja’ of the erstwhile Dewas royal family. Two days later, the ‘king’ died at a hospital in Indore and Vikram Singh’s coronation was held the following day, on June 20, at a private ceremony inside the palace.
While seeking anticipatory bail for Vikram Singh, who had been on the run for nearly three months, his lawyer had argued in court that he should be let out because he was the “only son” and needed to be crowned king before the death of his father who was brain dead.
“Because he belongs to the royal family, the rajyarohan (ascension to the throne) and the funeral will not take place without the yuvaraj. Since a non-bailable offence has been registered against him, he is likely to be arrested but because he belongs to the raj gharana (royal family), his reputation will be sullied (if he is accompanied by the police to the funeral),’’ his lawyer argued.
On June 20, several dignitaries, including Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, Home Minister Babulal Gaur and Congress leader Digvijaya Singh, turned up in Dewas for Puar’s funeral. Puar died of brain hemorrhage after a fall in his bathroom a few days ago.
Vikram Singh is accused of killing a man three months ago over a land dispute. While 11 of his accomplices were subsequently arrested, Vikram Singh went missing. On June 16, the police filed a chargesheet against the 11 accused while declaring Vikram Singh an absconder.
While arguing against the bail plea, Special Public Prosecutor Ashok Chawla said in court that Vikram Singh had been absconding and would escape again if granted bail. “Anticipatory bails are rarely granted in the case of a serious offence like murder,” Chawla told The Indian Express, adding that the police were yet to take a call on whether to challenge the court order.
Defence lawyer Ashok Varma, who moved the bail plea, said, “The court gave anticipatory bail on humanitarian grounds and did not discuss the merits of the case (murder).’’
Talking of the options Vikram Singh now has, Varma said that after the 15-day bail period, his client could apply for another anticipatory bail till the end of trial.
On March 18, Vikram Singh had allegedly led his men in three vehicles to Raghogarh village, about 40 km from Dewas, and clashed with one Pratap Lodhi and his family members who were harvesting wheat in their field. Lodhi, his elder brother Ramesh and a few others were injured in the attack. Pratap died two days after the clash and a murder charge was added to the FIR registered at the Barotha police station in Dewas.
Vikram’s men also filed a cross complaint. Before leading his men to the disputed land, Vikram had sought police protection, saying he anticipated trouble. Based on an SIT probe into the incident, the police arrested 11 of Vikram Singh’s associates, but not him, leading to allegations that the police were shielding him. Five other accused are still at large.
The two sides have for years been locked in a land dispute that is pending in court. While Vikram Singh’s family insists the land belongs to a trust floated by the royal family, Lodhi’s brother says the land has been in their possession for decades and was, in fact, a gift from the royal family.
“Vikram Singh had come to attack us even a year ago. Now that he is out on bail, we are scared and hope the police will protect us,’’ said Pratap’s brother Ramesh.