UP gangster killed in shootout
The encounter had taken place in full public view at around 11.30 am. A visibly shaken DCP (North) S.N. Srivastav said: ``Our aim was not to kill the criminals. The Connaught Place shootout is still fresh in my mind. Ten policemen were charge-sheeted in that case yesterday. But when the criminals opened fire today we had to retaliate. We fired 21 rounds. Yatinder Kumar died on the spot. Munna Bajrangi is critically injured''.
``As we did not want a repeat of the CP shootout, we confirmed that the men in the car were the wanted criminals. I checked the number of the car,'' he added. Holding up Yatinder Kumar's blood-soaked driving license, he said: ``The card shows his picture and his address. He is indeed the dreaded gangster involved in a number of criminal cases including a sensational double murder in Ghaziabad.''
Though the police claim to be certain that the deceased was the dreaded criminal Yatinder Kumar, he had been registered as unknown at Bara Hindu Rao hospital. Munna Bajrangi has been admitted as Prem Singh. The police explained that Yatinder was registered as unknown because the constables who brought his body to the hospital were not aware of his name. The investigating officers said that Munna Bajrangi had been registered as Prem Singh as that was his second name.
Bajrangi, who received nine bullet injuries, was admitted to the hospital at around 1 pm. When his condition deteriorated, he was rushed to the LNJP Hospital for surgery of the brain. Constable Devender Kumar's condition is said to be stable. Police Commissioner V.N. Singh said Bajrangi was a hired killer, an extortionist, was involved in a number of cases of drug-trafficking and had proven ISI links. The UP police had earlier announced a Rs-50,000 on his head. A proposal to increase the reward amount to Rs 1 lakh was pending with the UP Chief Minister.
The police claim to have recovered two pistols and several live rounds from the possession of the accused. While Bajrangi fired at the police from a 7.65 mm pistol, Yatinder used a 1.30 mm Chinese pistol.
The police narrated the day's events in a press conference: The north district police reportedly received information from the UP police this morning that two notorious criminals had left Bhadoi town and were headed to Delhi.
ACP Rajbir Singh spotted the car in Panipat and asked for assistance from DCP S.N. Srivastav. Four police vehicles chased the speeding Black Esteem and surrounded it at Mukarba Chowk near the Azadpur Subzi Mandi. The car had slowed down as there was heavy traffic in the area. The alleged criminals opened fire at the police team injuring constable Devender Singh.
Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd.
Encounter specialist ACP Rajbir Singh shot dead
March 25, 2008 03:12 IST
Last Updated: March 25, 2008 17:07 IST
Last Updated: March 25, 2008 17:07 IST
The 48-year-old assistant commissioner, whose career had its share of both glory and controversy, was gunned down at the office of the real estate agent Vijay Bhardwaj after an altercation over payment of profit money in a property deal.
Singh was killed by his own gun given to Bhardwaj three days ago, Gurgaon Police Commissioner Mohinder Lal told a press conference.
The controversial police officer, who was involved in the investigations in the terrorist attack on Parliament House and the Red Fort , would have taken precautions had he known that Bharadwaj had enmity with him and had "something in his mind", he said.
"He would not have given his revolver to a person had he known he would kill him," Lal said.
Haryana Director General of Police Ranjiv Dalal said Singh, who enjoyed 'Z' category security, knew Bharadwaj well and was doing "all these shady things."
"So he decided to go alone or otherwise he would have gone with his own people," the DGP said.
"I do not know what business transaction was going on between these two people. That is a matter of further investigation. But the fact is Singh had invested money and the property dealer was not able to pay back and all this led to this bad incident," he said.
"As far as local police tells me, they did not know anything else about Singh's involvement or any other land deals. But we will have to investigate this," the DGP said, adding the probe will be conducted by a special team.
Bhardwaj, who surrendered soon after the incident, "confessed" to the crime, Lal said adding Singh had threatened to kill him if he did not pay up.
Singh, a recipient of President's Police Medal for Gallantry and four other awards, was shot twice from point blank range in Sukhrali village of Gurgaon at around 8 pm.
Dalal said Singh had gone to collect the money, which he had invested with the real estate agent.
He said Singh, who had `Z' category protection because of threat from militants, was not accompanied by his security personnel when he was shot at.
Talking to reporters, Bhardwaj said he owed money to Singh and that the officer had "threatened" to kill him.
"I wanted to commit suicide, but my family found the (suicide) letter and stopped me. Today was payment day and I could not put the money together. He (Singh) said he would kill me," he claimed.
Singh, who had joined Delhi Police as a sub-inspector in 1982, earned the title of 'encounter specialist' as he was involved in 56 shootouts, including the controversial Ansal Plaza operation in 2002 in which questions were raised over the killing of two terrorists.
Singh was transferred from the Crime Branch to Delhi Armed Police after allegations of his involvement in an illegal land deal last year.
There were also allegations of his links with drug traffickers, land mafia and bookies following telephone tappings.
The vigilance probe, however, gave him a clean chit and he returned to head the Special Operations Squad in November 2007.
Delhi Police said it would work closely with Gurgaon Police in the investigation into the killing.
A Delhi Police team, which went to verify details of the incident, identified his body which has been sent to the civic hospital in Gurgoan for post-mortem.---------------------------------------------------------------------
Violence and questions in death — and in life
New Delhi, March 25
One bullet silenced assistant commissioner of police Rajbir Singh — a man whose gun had spoken for 26 long years, killing 42 “wanted” men.
It is not easy to live with these killings, Rajbir often told his colleagues, reminding them how his daughter Shruti had stopped talking to him for a month after the controversial Ansal Plaza shooting. Shruti is now in Class V, while his son Sahil is taking the higher secondary boards.
Rajbir had followed in the footsteps of his father who retired from the CRPF as deputy inspector general. The uniform beckoned and he joined as sub-inspector in 1982. In a career spanning over two decades, where bouquets have regularly been dogged by brickbats, Rajbir rose through the ranks in a hurry, even setting a record for reaching the ACP’s chair in 13 years.
He drew first blood in 1994 with the arrest of gangster Virender Jatta while he was posted as sub-inspector in the Delhi Crime Branch. He was given an out-of-term promotion and made inspector with a new assignment at the special staff, West District.
His first encounter came soon when he killed Uttar Pradesh gangster Rajbir Ramala and his accomplice Inder Pal Singh inside the Handicrafts Emporium on Mehrauli Road in March 1995. A major pat in the back followed and he was made ACP.
There was no looking back. In 1998, a day after ten police officers were chargesheeted for the Connaught Place shootout, ACP Rajbir Singh’s team carried out a daylight encounter injuring gangster Munna Bajrangi and killing his associate Yatinder Kumar in Samaipur Badli. His team had been chasing the duo from Panipat. More laurels, and this time he was posted at the Special Cell on March 1, 1999. Singh remained in-charge of the New Delhi Range for six years.
In 2005, the narcotics department leaked tapes of his alleged conversation with a drug dealer. In the tapes, Rajbir was heard assuring the man on a land deal. He was shunted to the armed police soon after. After stints with the FRRO and the traffic police, Rajbir came back last November when the Special Operation Squad was formed.
His cult is inescapable as one walks into the Andrewsganj Police Colony. Two quarters were joined to make a sprawling house for Rajbir. Needless to say, he lived under constant threat. His .38-bore revolver was always on him except this Monday, when he went to his friend Vijay Bhardwaj’s office leaving behind the firearm in his car.
Guest post by MANISHA SETHI
An RTI enquiry has revealed that Delhi Police Special Cell’s conviction rate is a paltry 30 per cent. Nearly 70 per cent of the accused it charge-sheeted over the past five years were acquitted for want of credible evidence. Do these figures tell us something? A news story in a leading English daily bemoans this trifling record and quotes a senior police officerattributing this to the fact that “police sometimes get tangled in cross evidences and it becomes tough when you rely more on circumstantial evidences”. [i] This evokes the image of a bumbling policeman, reminiscent almost of Jacques Clouseau, tripping over reams and strings of evidences, in an impossible attempt to build a watertight case against the villains. But Special Cell couldn’t be farther from this sort of cute sloppiness.
These bare statistics of 30-70 must be read in conjunction with court judgments and the track record of the Special Cell itself to arrive at the big picture. It is not shoddy investigative skills—a pardonable offence; or poor infrastructure—a justifiable excuse again—but the simple non-existence of a case that is allowing accused to secure acquittals. Created in 1986 to tackle terrorism and high profile crime, Special Cell has become a law unto itself, a marauding force, ‘encountering’ and detaining ‘suspects’ almost at will. This is not a charge of bleeding heart liberals and human rights wallahs alone, but a fact corroborated by judgment after judgment of the city courts.
There is a nauseating familiarity to the narrative of the Special Cell’s busting of terror modules. This is the stream of events as is usually recorded in the FIR: secret information is received by the police about the entry of a dreaded terrorist into Delhi via bus/ car/ railways to meet an aide to conspire about an attack or pass on arms and ammunition. Losing no time, a party is readied and dispatched to the spot. The police party unsuccessfully entreats civilians to join them as public witnesses. An encounter ensues. The terrorist is apprehended. Cash, arms, and caches of explosives recovered, and the terrorist and the booty displayed suitably in a press conference. Glory invariably follows.
It is only years later, with the accused already having spent years in jail—his businessdestroyed, his children out of school, and in many cases, family members suffering from severe mental depression—that the truth starts to emerge. This is the terrible truth of illegal detention, torture, extortion and frame-ups.
On 14 June 2005, Moinuddin Dar and Bashir Amed Shah travelled to Delhi from Kashmir in connection with their tea business carrying with them about 4.5 lakh rupees in cash for transactions. [ii] As was their custom, the duo stayed ina hotel in Karol Bagh. They befriended two fellow Kashmiris who were booked into a room close to theirs. Two evenings later, when Dar was relaxing in his room and Rehman out with their new friends for dinner at Nizaumddin, there was a knock on the door. Dar found two men at his door, one of them claiming to be Ravinder Tyagi of the Delhi Police Special Branch. The other man was Major Sharma of the Indian Army posted in Kashmir. Dar’s nightmare had begun. Over the next couple of days the four Kashmiri men were detained in the hotel by the police, subjected to torture and indignities and forced to sign blank sheets of paper. Slowly, Tyagi and his men turned the hotel into their private torture chamber collecting thirteen Kashmiris in its rooms. The men were taken to the Dhaula Kuan Police Station where senior police officers demanded money in lieu of freedom. Nearly two weeks after they were illegally confined in their hotel room, Dar, Bashir and two other men, SaqibRehman and Nazeer Ahmed Sofi—the last picked up from the Delhi airport when his flight landed from Srinagar on 20th June—were driven to the Police headquarters in ITO. As they got off from the police vehicle, they noted a frenzied media presence—the four were thrust in front of the cameras by a preening Tyagi who claimed to have arrested them after an encounter on the National Highway 8 near the IGI airport. A press photo of a smooth Tyagi and dazed-looking accused, separated only by a row of seized arms and explosives, survived. This public moment of glory was to be one of the key evidences to nail the lie of police claims.
The prosecution’s story was that on 27 June 2005, a secret informer (but of course!) apprised Ravinder Tyagi–then posted as SI in Special Branch of Dhaula Kuan—of the nefarious designs of two Kashmiri terrorists, Masood and Zahid.[iii] Tyagi asked his source to develop this information further. After a brief lull, on 1 July, the secret informer resurfaced with the valuable news that the two terrorists along with two associates, ferrying a huge consignment of arms and ammunition, were headed into Delhi from Jaipur in a blue Tata Indica (HR26S0440). Tyagi led a police party and sat waiting on the national Highway and voila along came the blue Tata Indica in the early hours of 2 July. After a chase—involving cross fire and hurling of hand grenades—worthy of a Bollywood potboiler, the terrorists were apprehended. Zahid was none other than Dar.
The deposition of the star witness Ravinder Tyagi crumbled under the scrutiny of the judge. Tyagi could not reveal to the court his secret informer—nor reply to why he felt no urgency to inform about the impending terror strike to the IB or even his seniors. The judge firmly held that no one could be convicted on the basis of secret information which could be not be “tested on the touchstone of the cross examination by the accused” [iv]. The court dismantled the case screw by screw, bolt by bolt.
An army combatant uniform was ostensibly seized from the ‘terrorists’ and traced by the policeto a tailor in Gopinath Bazar in Delhi Cantt. The police rushed off to verify the same in the official vehicle (no. DL1LD1264) and did indeed discover the tailor plying his trade in the market. The tailor when produced in the court not only identified Dar but also admitted to selling the uniform to him. So far so good. The log record of the vehicle in which the police party had paid the tailor a visit showed no movement on the said day; the vehicle had remained parked all day at the Police Station. [v] But never mind that—it could have been a simple mistake—perhaps they clean forgot to make this important entry in the log book. Never mind also that the tailor sometimes claimed that Dar had purchased a readymade uniform and at other times said that the uniform had been made to measure on Dar’s order. He must have, after all, prepared several of these uniforms for scores of clients and it would be unfair to expect him to remember the precise details of all of those. But certainly, it was very odd that the tailor turned out to be a stock witness of the police, appearing and giving evidence in many cases on behalf of the police (odd also how criminals and terrorists made a beeline for the same tailor when they needed fake army uniforms). On closer examination of his testimony, the tailor conceded that he operated his shop from a pavement which left him at the mercy of police and MCD officials, and false testimonies were his way of paying hafta to the police. It was in fact he, who had been summoned to the DhaulaKuan PS where Dar was duly exhibited to him. [vi]
A sketch of Palam airport was apparently recovered from the pocket of Dar—a point used by the prosecution as proof of the terrorist conspiracy. The court however noted that for the sketch to be kept in the pocket, it would have to be folded more than twice. The fact that there was a single fold longitudinally with no creases suggested that the sketch had been planted as an afterthought. Also, the police upon recovering the sketch made no attempt to either corroborate Dar’s handwriting on the sketch, not to inform the Palam airport authorities about a possible terror attack. [vii] The Tata Indica, which was supposedly the vehicle of choice of the alleged terrorists was shown to be stolen and an FIR produced in this regard. The FIR turned out to be in fact about another car. Moreover, the records showed that the car was registered with the transport authority months after it was supposedly misappropriated—leading the court to conclude that “Tata Indica Car was planted and merely used as a tool to falsely implicate the accused persons in this case.” [viii]
But best of all—and the most brazen of all—was the press conference on the day of the encounter. The police merrily forgot to account for it in their case. Sub Inspector Mahender Singh deposed in the court that he “took the accused alongwith him from the encounter site to P.S.Kapasahera at 10.45 a.m.” from where he reached Hotel BabaContinental, Karol Bagh, at 12 noon, left from there at 1.30 p.m. forthe Patiala House Courts.” [ix] So when did the press conference take place? There was no press conference, the prosecution firmly responded. But for the photograph of Tyagi strutting his catch published in a Hindi daily which was preserved by the defence.
Circumstantial evidence, says a senior police officer, is the bane of prosecution, allowing many accused to walk free. But what of forged evidence and circumstances spun out of thin air? And don’t forget the figure of Major Sharma who accompanied Tyagi’s team to the hotel in Karol Bagh. Sharma belonged to Army intelligence and had been posted in Kashmir for six years and subsequently transferred to Delhi as Lt. Colonel. Dar and another co-accused Abdul Majeed Bhatt had worked for the surrender of several militants before the police in Kashmir. Sharma got the wind of it and sensing the possibility of awards urged the duo to arrange for surrender before him.[x] Stung by the rejection of his offer, he colluded with Tyagi to implicate these men in this charade of a terror plot—a point not unobserved by the Court:
“They [accused] are totally innocent and have been framed in this case by the aforesaid four police officers in order to achieve their personal gains and/or to settle petty personal scores, be that at thebehest of one Major Sharma, whose attempts to persuade accused Gulam Moinuddin Dar to work for him in getting the militantssurrendered in Kashmir were spurned by him (Gulam Moinuddin Dar) or to earn undue honours or awards for themselves.” [xi]
This is by no means the solitary case of manipulated evidence and motivated investigation—nor a rare instance of cynical complicity between Intelligence and counter insurgency forces. Many would be familiar with the case of Irshad Ali and Md. Qamar, informers for the IB, who tired of risking their lives, refused to infiltrate a Kashmiri insurgent organization as demanded by IB officers and were punished for their stubbornness by being abducted by the Special Cell—and surprise, surprise, Ravinder Tyagi played a key role here in this operation as well—tortured unnecessarily for months and then produced before the media as Al Badr terrorists caught with arms and explosives, getting off a bus at Mutarba Chowk at Delhi border. [xii] The duo’s telephone call records showed that they had been long in touch with IB; the bus tickets produced before the court were of a day previous to that on which Irshad and Qamar were allegedly arrested. In its closure report, CBI, which had been directed by the High Court to investigate the case, called for prosecution of three officers of the Special Cell, including Vinay Tyagi, Subhash Vats and of course Ravinder Tyagi for lying under oath and creating “false” evidence, among other serious offences. [xiii] This was not all. Inspector Santosh Kumar, the CBI investigating officer fearing for his safety following threats moved an application in the court of additional sessions judge seeking protection from Sub Inspector Vinay Tyagi who was threatening him with dire consequences. [xiv]
In 2005, the Special Cell emerged heroic after averting a major attack on the Indian Military Academy (IMA), Dehradun, by apprehending four terrorists following a fierce encounter in Uttam Nagar inSouth west Delhi. [xv] There was of as usual the mandatory press conference where the prize catches were displayed for the media and the brave Special Cell officers vied to be photographed with the ‘terrorists’ they had nabbed.
Five years after they were sent to jail for being Laskhar-e-tayyiba (LeT) militants planning a daring attack on IMA, the court ruled that they had been set up by the special cell [xvi]. It was a familiar tale of lies, misrepresentation of facts, and contradictions, which could not stand the scrutiny of cross examination. [xvii] The remittances by one of the accused, Haroon, through Western Union were shown to be the monies used by LeT to fund the IMA campaign. It turned out to be repayment of a loan to a generous uncle who financed Haroon’s travel to Singapore. The email transcripts between Haroonand his Pakistani handler were proved to be fabrications by the police. The recoveries from the home of Iftikhar, a student of Biotechnology at an Institute in Dehradun, demonstrated in the Special Cell’s view his deep involvement in the conspiracy. Ignore for a moment the Special Cell norm of preparing a seizure list in the absence of any independent public witness and focus on two key items seized: a pass to the IMA parade and a diary containing inflammatory passages from the Quran and a note declaring vengeance for Gujarat 2002.
The pass turned out to be five months old, the parade already over long before the busting of the IMA ‘terror plot’. More interesting was the fact that all officers of the Special Celldeveloped amnesia in court about which of them had visited Dehradun to conduct the raid. Neither could they remember whether the revenge note was written out in Hindi or English. The court was inclined to listen to Iftikhar’s charge that he had been forced to scribble out the revenge note in his diary next to the passages from Quran (which were not in any way inflammatory). Perhaps they were inspired by the Maharashtra ATS which has perfected and peddled the Revenge theory so well that it has acquired the currency of an axiom.
Maharashtra ATS is not the only inspiration. 9/11 fascinates the Special Cell just as much. Imran Kirmani, an aeronautical engineer, was picked up from his home in November 2006 and presented before eager reporters as the sensational LeTcatch [xviii] planning a “9/11 type strike in Delhi”. In October this year, the court dismissed the flimsy ‘secret information’ which, no surprises by now, RavinderTyagi, had received about the plot. Moreover, there were others in the Special Cell, Sub inspectors RS Shehrawat and Ramesh Lamba as well as ACP SK Yadav who claimed in the court to be recipients of this valuable secret information. The FSL report contradicted the Special cell claim that RDX was seized from Kirmani. The court noted fudging of records, namely the ruqqa, which was originally recorded to be of two pages but which mysteriously expanded to seven pages when attached with the chargesheet. It was strange also, commented the court that having apprehended a dreaded LeT terrorist, the Special Cell made no attempt to determine their hideout.[xix]
The Special Cell also tried to inject a dose of 9/11 in the Delhi blasts 2008 case by alleging that one of the accused, Shahzad, apparently a trained pilot, was the head of the aerial module of Indian Mujahideen.[xx]But their theory crash-landed rather quickly after it was discovered that Shahzad had never ever enrolled in a flying course, and had zero flying skills. [xxi]
So, difficulty of tying down slippery circumstantial evidence—or simple frame ups which can’t pass the test of evidence and law? The Special Cell hopes that the burden of evidence can be considerably lowered in cases of terrorism, where patriotism, national security and even prejudice can be called upon as dependable alibis. When asked for evidence to prove the implication of Md. Salman in the Delhi blasts case by the judge, the public prosecutorcontinually spoke of the dangers terrorism posed to the country. When asked how Salman’s innocuous telephone conversations demonstrated his guilt, the PP invoked the climate of fear created by terrorism and how India was waging a war on terror. He, no doubt, hoped thatwar on terror would be viewed by the court as legitimate substitute for evidence. [xxii]
Counter insurgency spawns its own political economy; the promise and prospect of promotions, cash awards, public adulation, glorification by a pliant media, all work to lubricate a machinery which transforms innocents into terrorists.It should come as no surprise that the ascent of city’s encounter specialists—S.S. Rathi, L.N. Rao and Rajbir Singh—in police hierarchy was swift, all receiving out of turn promotions and rapidly reaching the rank of ACPs; in fact Rajbir Singh became the only officer to be promoted to ACP rank in a mere thirteen years after joining as sub inspector in 1982. [xxiii] Their dizzy rise was facilitated by the suffering of men like Dar and Bashir Ahmed, and countless others whom they claimed to have shot down in difficult crossfire ops.
Remember the encounter at Connaught Place in 1997? Two businessmen were gunned down point blank by these brave men of the Special Cell led by S.S. Rathi. Or Ansal Plaza in 2002? Within hours of gunning down of two ‘Kashmiri terrorists’ in the basement of this upscale shopping centre on Diwali eve, the then Home Minister LK Advani rushed to the encounter site to bathe in the afterglow of the glories of Special Cell’s operation. (And the Police used his presence to seal the authenticity of the ‘encounter’). [xxiv]
The jingoistic hype created by the Ansal Plaza encounter was punctured by a good doctor, Dr. Hari Krishna, who contradicted the police story that two terrorists had driven into the shopping complex in a Maruti 800; instead, he said,he had seen the two men, barely able to stand or walk, being almost dragged by the Special Cell officers and then shot in cold blood. For years, Dr. Hari Krishna was hounded and threatened: old cases, long settled were raked, his reputation tarnished, his claims of being present at the site ofencounter dismissed by doctoring the records of his mobile phone through collusion with a cellular company. [xxv]
But who shall bell the cat? The courts have on numerous occasions passed strictures against the Special Cell, noting especially its predatory ways, even asking for filing of FIRs against them and departmental enquiries (as in the case of Dar and Bashir Ahmed) or directed for their prosecution (as in the Al Badr frame up and CP encounter). Despite repeated offences, Special Cell officers remain the darlings of the Delhi Police top brass receiving their protection, patronage and legal aid. In every single case where action was called for against them, appeals were filed to avert prosecution. Additional DCP of the Special Cell, Ravi Shankar, one of the key officers chosen to lead the investigation in the Delhi High Court blast in mid September 2011 was found to be extorting money by threatening to implicate people in false cases.[xxvi] Shankar and his co-accused appealed against the CMM’s order seeking the filing of an FIR in a city court and indeed were able to wrest a stay. [xxvii]
While as individuals they have right to legal recourse, one must seriously ask how the state continues to back them in their legal battles. The sentencing of Rathi and nine of his men who were found guilty of killing in cold blood in the CP encounter was repeatedly appealed against and was finally upheld by the Supreme Court in May this year—thirteen years after they carried out the execution. [xxviii] It was only in 2009 that a Delhi court allowed Dr.Hari Krishna’s evidence to be recorded. But by then, the prime witness had battled years of intimidation and the chief accused, ACP Rajbir Singh, had been killed in shady circumstances by a property dealer in Gurgaon amidst talk of unseemly land deals. Whatever the truth of these allegations, one thing was certain: the Special Cell’s elite position and wide powers allowed it to subvert the rule of law, turning it into a rampaging monster.
Salman was discharged. Moinuddin Dar and Bashir Ahmed were acquitted, as were Irshad Ali and Qamar, as did Iftikhar, Haroon and Kirmani gain their freedom. [xxix] But after brutal torture, public ignominy and condemnation, humiliating press conferences, years in prison, loss of employment and businesses, broken families, the ever-present terror of the police, and fear as constant companion.
Why does the government—which consistently blocked all enquiries into the Batla House encounter, which expressed satisfaction with the reports placed by senior police officers, on which basis it dismissed, indeed violated the NHRC procedural requirement for a magisterial enquiry—stand with these repeat offenders of the Delhi police? Ravinder Tyagi and Investigating officer Mahinder Singh have filed two writs in the High Court: one, seeking the overturning of acquittal of Dar and others, and the second asking for a stay on criminal proceedings against them. Indeed, in response to an RTI application filed by Jamia Teachers Solidarity Association (JTSA) seeking information if the court’s order of filing an FIR and departmental enquiry had been initiated, the Delhi Police responded that they had neither filed an FIR nor initiated a departmental enquiry as the police officers had appealed against the order.[xxx]
Had not the Commissioner of Police read the verdict of the court which blew the prosecution case to smithereens? Did the senior authority in the Delhi Police feel no moral obligation to conduct an enquiry in the aftermath of such a damning indictment of its decorated officers? Are they unaware of the CBI closure report which indicts the Special Cell for falsely framing innocents?Have they paused to ask how the Special Cell manages to produce explosives and vast amounts of cash to be displayed at Press conferences? Is it the case of a few rogue officers? Rathi and his band of nine merry shooters continued to serve in the police even when they were convicted by the lower court on the ground“that their appeals against such conviction are pending before the superior courts,” an outraged High Court noted seeking the response of the MHA. [xxxi]
If it had just been a handful of bad apples, then surely they would have been suspended and taken off duty years ago. Instead what they received were medals, rapid promotions and a virtual license to kill.
One suspects that this is deeper than that. The Special Cell—or the various ATS and STF for that matter—represent our impatience with due process of law and the increasing impunity afforded to those we see as custodians of nationalsecurity. They are to the police forces what AFSPA is to the army: enjoying utter impunity with almost a blanket immunity. Just a week after the Ansal Plaza encounter, inaugurating the Asia Pacific Human Rights conference, Prime Minister Vajpayee was advocating the erosion of human rights as a necessary corollary to the war on terror: “we have sometimes to take tough decisions, even infringing some of our freedoms and abridging some of our human rights temporarily, to firmly counter terrorism….” [xxxii] A sentiment echoed by former Chief Justice and current chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission when he deemed encounters as “unavoidable sometimes … the law and order problem is increasing. Criminals are taking law into their hands, attacking even the police. Police have to take control of the situation.” [xxxiii]
Our popular culture has served this attitude well—and has indeed helped shaped it. Bollywood has celebrated the instant justice that ‘encounter specialists’ represent and ridiculed human rights concerns.
Plans are afoot to mount a bio-pic of ACP Rajbir Singh (he of the infamous land deals and mysterious killing). Titled apparently, KlubLodhi Road, [xxxiv] the film is perhaps intended to sweeten and gift wrap the ugliness of encounter killings and frame ups Rajbir Singh and Special Cell indulged in, just as Ab Tak Chappan glamourized Daya Naik and Mumbai encounter specialists.
The real cause for concern should not be the low rate of conviction in the cases ‘cracked’ by the Special Cell—but the appalling lack of prosecution of the officers of Special Cell and the near total absence of any departmental enquiry or action against them.
(Manisha Sethi is with Jamia Teachers’ Solidarity Association.)
[i] “70 % Acquittals in Special Cell Cases” by DwaipayanGhosh, Times of India, 8 October 2011. (http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2011-10-09/delhi/30259861_1_special-cell-chargesheeted-p-n-aggarwal).
[ii] Personal interview with Moinuddin Dar.
[iii] Based on the text of the judgement delivered by ShriVirenderBhat, ASJ, Dwarka Courts, New Delhi; State versus SaqibRehman and Others (SC no. 24/10) delivered on 2 February 2011.
[iv] Ibid., p. 29.
[v] Ibid., p. 66.
[vi] Ibid., p. 67.
[vii] Ibid., p. 63.
[viii] Ibid., p. 74.
[ix] Ibid., p. 78
[x] Personal interview with Moinuddin Dar
[xi] Ibid., p. 109.
[xii] Trail of Terror Cops” by NirmalangshuMukherji, Revolutionary Democracy, Vol. XIV, No. 2, September 2008.
[xiii] “CBI indicts Special Cell of Delhi Police”, Hindustan Times, Nov 16, 2008. (http://www.hindustantimes.com/StoryPage/Print/351960.aspx)
[xiv] “Special Cell Cop threatens CBI Sleuth”, by Aman Sharma, Mail Today, 15 January 2009. (http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/Special+cell+cop+threatens+CBI+sleuth/1/25317.html).
[xv] “Slain Militants had Plans to Attack IMA”, Tribune News Service, 6 March 2005, New Delhi. “3 LeT militants killed in Police Encounter” Times of India, 5th March 2005 (http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2005-03-05/delhi/27847966_1_three-militants-police-encounter-special-cell. ) The encounter—and following it, the arrests, were accepted as the undisputed truth in the media. One commentator linked this “abortive attack on cadets at the Indian Military Academy in Dehra Dun” to an alleged dreaded kingpin of Lashkar –e Tayyiba, bin Aziz. “Harvest of Hate” by Praveen Swami, Frontline, Volume 23 – Issue 05: 11 – 24 March 2006. (http://www.hindu.com/fline/fl2305/stories/20060324005001900.htm).
[xvi] “Delhi Court Acquits Four in IMA Attack Conspiracy”, Times of India, 8th January 2010. (http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2010-01-08/delhi/28137749_1_ima-indian-military-academy-acquits
[xvii] See the reports in “Terror that’s Wasn’t” by BrijeshPandey, Tehelka magazine, Vol. 7, Issue 08, 27 February, 2010 (http://www.tehelka.com/story_main43.asp?filename=Ne270210terror_that.asp).
[xviii] “RDX Seized in Delhi: Two Arrested”, The Hindu, 23 November 2006. The leader to the report said: “Leads to seizure of 1.65 kg of RDX, timers and Rs. 4.5 lakh Police suspect that the outfit had planned to carry out a major terrorist strike.” (http://www.hindu.com/2006/11/23/stories/2006112314650100.htm)
[xx] “UP cops nab IM Terrorist planning Aerial Strike” by Pervez IqbalSiddiqui, Times of India, 2 February 2010 (http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/delhi/UP-cops-nab-IM-terrorist-planning-aerial-strike/articleshow/5525935.cms). The story reported that “Shehzad…had undergone a training to fly planes from an institute in Bangalore and had surfaced as a leader of the module designated to execute aerial terror attacks.” See also:http://zeenews.india.com/news/nation/nabbed-im-operative-was-planning-air-attacks_600855.html.
[xxi] Mail Today, 06 February 2010.
[xxii] “Suspected IM Man discharged in 2008 Serial Blasts Case”, Times of India, 07 February 2010 (http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2011-02-07/delhi/28363947_1_serial-blasts-rajiv-mohan-khalil-ansari). See also “Show me the evidence, says Judge. The Prosecution is able to produce none! Md. Salman discharged from the 2008 Delhi Blasts Case!” (http://www.countercurrents.org/jtsa050211.htm
[xxiii] “Our Encounter Specialists”, Indian Express, 18 October 2007 (http://www.expressindia.com/latest-news/our-encounter-specialists/229578/).
[xxiv] “Delhi Police under Fire after Ansal Plaza Shootout” by PratyushKanth and SiddharthSrivastav, Times of India, 5 November 2002. (http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2002-11-05/delhi/27307307_1_three-diaries-ansal-plaza-delhi-police).
[xxv] The NHRC issued directives to the Police to ensure the safety of the eye witness but the harassment continued unabated. PUDR wrote to the NHRC to intervene as late as 2007. (http://www.pudr.org/content/letter-nhrc-harassment-ansal-plaza-shootout-witness). Dr. Hari Krishna also shared his experience in a presentation at the release of the report, Batla House ‘Encounter’: Unanswered Questions, (JTSA), JamiaMilliaIslamia, 20 February 2009.
[xxvi] Audio CD blew lid over Special Cell Extortion Racket”, Indian Express, 15 September 2011. (http://www.indianexpress.com/news/audio-cd-blew-lid-off-special-cell-extortion/846934/) and “Crime Branch Cop in the Dock over Extortion”, Times of India, 14 September 2011.http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2011-09-14/delhi/30154068_1_special-cell-mcoca-case-delhi-police
[xxvii] “Court stays FIR against Special Cell Personnel in Extortion Case”, Indian Express, 23 September 2011. ( http://www.indianexpress.com/news/court-stays-fir-against-special-cell-personn/850450/).
[xxviii] “Fake Encounter case: Supreme Court Upholds Life Sentence of Rathi”, Jagran Post, 2 May 2011. (http://post.jagran.com/fake-encounter-case-supreme-court-upholds-life-sentence-of-rathi-9-others-cops-1304350487).
[xxix] KPS Gill’s South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), a one-stop documentation of terror attacks since 1997 continues to happily list all those acquitted as terrorists, and all proven frame-ups as terror attacks. (seehttp://www.satp.org/satporgtp/countries/india/database/Delhi_Incidents.htm)
[xxx] JTSA’s application was filed on 23.03.2011 under the RTI Act 2005. A communication dated 06.04.2011 (no. 2818 (701)/DIC/SWD) was received from the office of the Additional Deputy Commissioner of Police-I Cum PIO, South West District, Dwarka, New Delhi.
[xxxi] “CP Encounter: Why wasn’t ACP Dismissed, asks HC”, PTI, 13 January 2011. (http://news.outlookindia.com/items.aspx?artid=708354)
[xxxii]The Hindu, 12 November 2002.
[xxxiii] “Is Justice Balakrishnan holding a devil’s brief?”,A Statement by the Asian Legal Resource Centre, 30 July 2010. (http://www.humanrights.asia/news/alrc-news/ALRC-STM-004-2010)
[xxxiv] “Now a Flick on ACP Rajbir Singh”, Hindustan Times, 8 October 2011. According to the official website of the film, it will be “an insight on the true stories of these extraordinary men who took leadership and responsibility in finishing crime in Delhi.”http://klublodhiroad.com/