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Life sentence for 10 Delhi policemen in CP shooting case

Dismissed Assistant Commissioner of Police S. S. Rathi and nine other Delhi policemen, convicted last week in the infamous Connaught Place shooting case, were on Wednesday sentenced to life imprisonment by a court here.

Along with Rathi, the other nine convicts — Inspector Anil Kumar, Sub-Inspector Ashok Rana, Head Constables Shiv Kumar, Tejpal Singh and Mahavir Singh, Constables Sumer Singh, Subhash Chand, Sunil Kumar and Kothari Ram (all since dismissed) — were sentenced to life imprisonment for murder, attempt to murder and criminal conspiracy.

Also, the court sentenced all the convicts to seven-year rigorous imprisonment for giving false evidence. Rathi and Anil Kumar were also sentenced to seven-year rigorous imprisonment for destruction of evidence. All the sentences will run concurrently.

The court also slapped a fine of Rs.100 on each of the convicts for each of the offences under which they have been held guilty.

In his order, Additional Sessions Judge Vinod Kumar said while the convicts had acted under a pre-meditated scheme, they did not act with such exceptional cruelty that the court would consider the sentence of life imprisonment wholly unjustified.

However, the Judge observed that the policemen either wanted to kill alleged gangster Mohammad Yaseen with a view to getting rid of a hardened criminal — though not sanctioned by law — or wanted to get out-of-turn promotions. In both cases, the act of the policemen could not be excused, he said.

The Judge went on to add that if the convicts decided to kill Yaseen for promotions, their act was “ignoble” and the motive “base”.

Earlier in the day, the prosecution had demanded death penalty for Rathi, Kothari Ram and Mahavir Singh. Special Public Prosecutor S. K. Saxena submitted that it was a cold-blooded murder that took place on instructions from Rathi.

The prosecutor also demanded death penalty for Kothari and Mahavir as their bullets, fired from AK-47s, had killed two innocent businessmen, Pradeep Goel and Jagjit Singh.

Defence lawyer R. K. Naseem pleaded that it was not a fit case for award of death penalty as all the convicts had good service records and some of them had even received honours and rewards in appreciation of their good work.

He also argued that they were not hardened criminals and that it was indeed a case of mistaken identity.

During the trial, the court heard testimonies of 74 witnesses. Yaseen was also one of the witnesses.

The court also relied on photographs provided by two photographers of The Statesman who had reached the spot within minutes of the bizarre incident in Connaught Place in the heart of New Delhi and came up with photographs that provided key evidence against the self-defence theory forwarded by the accused.

On March 31, 1997, a Delhi Police Crime Branch team led by Rathi had apparently been following Yaseen in a blue Maruti Esteem car.

But the car which they cornered and fired at near Statesman House in Connaught Place actually had two businessmen sitting inside it. Another person inside the vehicle, Tarunpreet Singh, sustained injuries in the shooting.

Realising that they had killed two innocent persons, the police claimed that the car’s occupants had fired first and the police had only retaliated in self-defence. They also planted a pistol and cartridges inside the car to strengthen their claim.

But the probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation that followed in the wake of a huge public outcry over the killings revealed that the pistol had not been used for a long time.

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