A Delhi court on Thursday convicted suspected Indian Mujahideen (IM) operative Shahzad Ahmed of murder and other offences in the 2008 Batla House encounter case.
“He (Shahzad) is held guilty of attempting to cause the death of head constables Balwant Singh and Rajbir Singh and causing the death of Inspector MC Sharma by firing on them,” the court said.
Pointing out that it “was not a sudden confrontation” and that the police team wasn’t expecting a gunfight, additional sessions judge Rajender Kumar Shastri said, “The police had information, based on which a raiding party was formed well in advance. The accused had no licence to fire at police persons who came there to investigate a case. They were expected to assist the police, not attack them.”
"Come for order on sentence on Monday (July 29)," the judge said after convicting him.
The court found Shahzad guilty of murder, attempt to murder, obstructing and assaulting public servants and grievously injuring the police officers to deter them from performing their duty.
The court, however, acquitted him of the offence under section 174A IPC (failure to appear in specified time and place as required by a proclamation by court).
The encounter had taken place at flat no. L-18, Batla House in Jamia Nagar locality in New Delhi on September 19, 2008, six days after serial bomb blasts rocked Delhi, killing 26 persons and injuring 133 others. The police had reached Batla House on a tip off that some suspected militants involved in the blasts were holed up in the building.
Of the five flat occupants, Atif Ameen and Mohd Sajid were killed during the encounter.
Highly-decorated Delhi Police inspector Mohan Chand Sharma succumbed to the bullet injuries sustained during the gun battle while head constable Balwant was injured.
Apart from these two, one Ariz Khan alias Junaid had been declared a proclaimed offender while Mohd Saif was not made an accused in this case as according to the prosecution, he had surrendered peacefully and did not play any part in the entire incident.
The police team had recovered two .30 bore pistols and one AK series rifle with two loaded magazines, containing 30 live cartridges from the spot. Shahzad was arrested on January 1, 2010 from Azamgarh in Uttar Pradesh.
The court had on July 20 reserved the judgement after conclusion of final arguments by the police and the defence.
During the trial, Shahzad had called as defence witnesses Saif and Zeeshan, both lodged in Sabarmati jail in Ahmedabad in connection with the serial blasts of July 26, 2008 there, claiming that he was not at the spot.
The prosecution examined 70 witnesses, including six eye-witnesses who were part of the raiding team of the Delhi Police Special Cell.
The police had said that it has sufficient circumstantial evidence and phone records to prove that Shahzad was present in the Jamia Nagar flat and was among those who had fired at the police team leading to the death of inspector Sharma.
It had said that Shahzad, along with Junaid, had jumped off the balcony and fled after firing at the police team during the September 19, 2008 encounter.
The counsel, appearing for Shahzad, however, had claimed that he was not present in the flat in which the shootout took place.
The defence had claimed that as per ballistic reports, the bullets found in the slain police officer's body matched with the gun seized from the spot and not from the weapon which was allegedly retrieved from Shahzad's possession when he was arrested.
The slain police officer's family welcomed the court's decision. "We are relieved at the verdict but a long battle still lies ahead. Shahzad was among the men who killed my husband and should be given the strictest punishment, but there are still other men who were responsible for his death who are yet to be caught," said Maya Sharma, the officer's wife.
"I just hope this judgement doesn't become another trigger for politicking like the incident itself has been for the last five years," she said.
"The last five years have been very difficult. The only person who took care of us has been absent. I don't know whether the encounter was real or fake. All I know is that I lost my son who cannot return," said Devinder Devi, Sharma's mother.
The encounter sparked a controversy after Congress leader Digvijaya Singh alleged it was staged and demanded a probe. Several social and human rights activists, including Arundhati Roy, also questioned the alleged discrepancies in the police version and sought a judicial enquiry. But an NHRC probe gave the police a clean chit, which was accepted by the high court. Then home minister P Chidambaram too backed the police.