A Delhi court Thursday found suspected Indian Mujahideen member Shahzad Ahmad guilty in the controversial September 2008 Batla House shootout in the capital in which Delhi Police Inspector Mohan Chand Sharma was killed and two officers wounded.
Shahzad,who is now around 28-years-old and belongs to Azamgarh in Uttar Pradesh,was the lone suspect to be arrested in the case.
Additional Sessions Judge Rajender Kumar Shastri held him guilty of various crimes committed through common intent,including the killing of Sharma, obstructing public servants in the discharge of their duty,assaulting and causing hurt to public servants,attempting to kill two police officers,causing disappearance of evidence,and under various provisions of the Arms Act.
But the court was non-committal about Shahzads alleged Indian Mujahideen affiliation. For the purpose of decision of this case,it hardly matters as to whether accused was affiliated to Indian Mujahideen or not, the judge said.
He accepted the defence plea that there was no evidence on record to suggest that Shahzad was a member of the terrorist organisation. True,there is no evidence on record to establish that fact. At the same time,this court cannot be expected to endeavour in giving any finding about said fact, the judge said.
Shahzads sentencing is set for Monday.
Shahzad was accused of firing at the Delhi Police team which entered the fourth floor house at L 108,Batla House,in Jamia Nagar. The prosecution had said that the police team had raided the house on September 19,2008,after a specific tip-off that IM members suspected to be responsible for the serial bomb blasts in Delhi on September 13,were hiding there.
The police had alleged that the occupants of the flat had opened fire at them when they entered the flat after announcing their identity. The police returned fire in self-defence,and Sharma,head constable Balwant Singh and head constable Rajbir received bullet injuries,with Sharma succumbing to his injuries in hospital.
Two occupants of the flat,Mohd. Atif Ameen and Mohd. Sajid,were killed in the shootout and two,including Shahzad,managed to escape by firing at the police.
One of the occupants of the flat,Azamgarh resident Saif,surrendered to the police and was arrested for his alleged involvement in the serial blasts case but not charged in the encounter case as he had not fired at the police team. The alleged fifth occupant of the house,Ariz Khan alias Junaid,remains a fugitive. Shahzad was arrested in February 2010 from Azamgarh by the Lucknow ATS.
The court order took note of the medico-legal reports of the two injured officers who said they had sustained grievous bullet injuries. Rajbir escaped death as he had been wearing a bulletproof jacket,in which two bullets were found embedded.
Shahzad was identified as an occupant of the house after police found his passport in one of its rooms. But Shahzad had argued that he had been illegally arrested from his home and was not in the flat on the day of the shootout.
Police said they had found Shahzad had booked three train tickets to return to Azamgarh on September 24. They also produced call records which showed that a mobile phone that had been used in or near Batla House,and found inside the house,had been used to contact Shahzads father several times.
In his 46-page judgment,the judge also raised questions about the raid.
Referring to the injuries sustained by the policemen,the judge asked why they entered the house of suspected terrorists without proper protective gear. While Sharma did not wear any body-protection,at least two members of the police team did not carry a weapon despite knowing that they may be fired at,the court said.
The court also expressed its discomfort over the reason given by the prosecution for not asking local residents to join the police raid as witnesses.
The prosecutor had told the court that local residents were not asked to accompany the police team as the police feared the residents could attack them.
No religion professes crimes as its tradition,then why the police fostered a belief that it will stir communal violence if they invited local residents to join a raid,to arrest an offender,who was belonging to their religion? (sic) the court asked.
But the judge also held that the lack of public witnesses in the circumstances could not be held against the police.