A city court on Wednesday sentenced to life imprisonment 10 policemen, including Assistant Commissioner of Police SS Rathi, convicted of killing two innocent civilians in a fake encounter at Connaught Place in 1997.
The punishment came as a relief for ACP Rathi, who led the team on the fateful day, as the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) had sought the gallows for him and two others — head constable Mahavir Singh and constable Kothari Ram. Recently, another ACP, RP Tyagi, was sentenced to death in a custodial death case.
The CBI had argued that the bullets fired from the guns of Singh and Ram killed businessmen Pradeep Goyal and Jagjeet Singh.
Additional Sessions Judge Vinod Kumar, however, did not find the case to be in the "rarest of rare" category. "Despite all the aggravating circumstances of the present case, the offence does not fall in the category of an exceptionally depraved and heinous character and does not constitute, on account of its design and the manner of execution, a source of grave danger to the society at large," Kumar said in his order.
As the judge pronounced the sentence, Rathi stood close to ACP Rajbir Singh, another controversial encounter specialist currently posted with Delhi Traffic Police. Rathi's mother quietly watched the proceedings sitting in a corner of the jam-packed courtroom.
The victims' families, who earlier wanted death penalty for the convicts, said they were satisfied with the court's decision. "My innocent son was shot dead by the police. I wanted death penalty for all the convicts. But if the court finds life imprisonment more just, I am satisfied with it," said Niranjan Singh, father of Jagjeet Singh. One of the convicts told
: "We are calm and composed as we have nothing to feel guilty about. We are not murderers. We are policemen who did our duty."