Sher Singh Rana, key accused in the 13-year-old sensational murder of bandit-turned-politician Phoolan Devi, was on Friday convicted for killing the then Lok Sabha MP by a Delhi court which acquitted 10 other persons facing trial in the case due to lack of evidence.
“Except Sher Singh Rana, I am acquitting all the accused. Sher Singh Rana is convicted for the offences under sections 302 (murder), 307 (attempt to murder) and 34 (common intention) under the IPC,” additional sessions judge Bharat Parashar said.
Immediately after pronouncement of the verdict in the jampacked courtroom, 38-year-old Rana shot back, “Why have you convicted only me. Others were also there.”
The judge said judgment has been passed on the basis of the evidence brought before him and Rana can file an appeal. “I have passed the judgment, you can file an appeal in the high court,” the judge said and fixed the case for August 12 for arguments and pronouncement of quantum of sentence.
The court convicted Rana on the ground that his fingerprints were there on the pistol which was used for killing 37-year-old Phoolan, then a Samajwadi Party MP from Mirzapur constituency in Uttar Pradesh, in front of her Ashoka Road residence on July 25, 2001.
It also took into account that Rana’s car was used in the crime. Regarding other co-accused, the judge said prosecution has failed to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt against them.
The court acquitted Dhan Prakash, Shekhar Singh, Rajbir Singh, Vijay Singh alias Raju (Rana’s brother), Rajender Singh alias Ravinder Singh, Keshav Chauhan, Praveen Mittal, Amit Rathi, Surender Singh Negi alias Suri and Sharavan Kumar.
The proceedings against accused Pradeep Singh were abated after he died in the Tihar Jail in November last year.
Phoolan was shot dead from close range by three masked gunmen in the heart of the capital’s VIP area as she returned home for lunch after attending Lok Sabha. Initially, the verdict was scheduled to be passed at 2 pm but when the court assembled at the post lunch session, the judge said he would pronounce the judgment at 4 pm as the order was not complete.
Again at around 3.40 pm, the court again assembled and Rana, Shekhar Singh, Rajbir Singh and Sharavan Kumar were produced before it from judicial custody while the co-accused, who were on bail, came to the court.
After marking the presence of all the accused, the judge pronounced the verdict in the court which was packed due to presence of lawyers, policemen, scribes and other onlookers.
Delhi police had chargesheeted 11 men accusing them of eliminating Phoolan to avenge the 1981 Behmai massacre in which she had allegedly killed a number of Thakurs.
All the accused were charged for the offences of murder read with criminal conspiracy and destroying evidence. They also faced charges of attempting to murder Phoolan’s security guard and under various provisions of Arms Act.
Police had said that Rana, the prime accused, wanted to establish himself as a Thakur leader by masterminding the killing and ruled out any other motive behind the murder of the Samajwadi Party MP.
“Investigations were conducted discretely to ascertain whether there was any motive, other than the political aspirations of Sher Singh, for Phoolan Devi’s murder. These have, however, drawn a blank,” the chargesheet had said. “There was none else, except those arrested and being mentioned in the charge sheet either in the conspiracy or in the execution of the conspiracy,” it had added.
As per the conspiracy, Rana procured weapons from his friend Rathi, owner of a gun shop in Roorkee. He came to Delhi along with Vicky, Shekhar, Rajbir and Uma Kashyap, her husband Vijay Kumar Kashyap in two Maruti cars in the morning on the fateful day, the chargesheet had alleged.
According to the chargesheet, Rana had driven Phoolan to Parliament and he was waiting for her to come back for lunch. After she got down from the vehicle Rana fired at her head while Vicky pumped bullets at her stomach.
Later, Rana fired indiscriminately at Phoolan who fell on the ground. Vicky fired at her bodyguard who had returned the fire on them, it had alleged, adding while fleeing the scene of crime, they dropped their country-made pistols.
Rana also fired one shot from the car while escaping, police had said. Police had recovered the cars, weapons including a Webley Scot revolver, mobile phones, SIM cards and the clothes worn by the accused at the time of the offence.
Forensic examination of the bullets extricated from the body of the slain MP had confirmed that they were fired from the weapons recovered from the accused, police had said.
Rana was on the prowl for about two-three years and for that he was gathering money and material for which he had looted a bank and also committed a dacoity for which he was facing trial.