Fourteen years after two Haryana-based businessmen were gunned down in a fake encounter at Connaught Place, the Delhi high court on Monday directed the Ministry of Home Affairs to pay a compensation of Rs 15 lakh each to their widows - Neema Goyal and Jaspal Kaur.
Slamming the Home Ministry and Delhi government for delay in initiating disciplinary action against errant policemen and ordering an inquiry, Justice S Muralidhar said: "It can hardly be a matter of debate that there must be zero tolerance for criminal behaviour by men in uniform entrusted with the task of law enforcement and the protection of the life and liberty of persons."
"Both MHA and GNCTD have to be held answerable and accountable in law for this obvious failure to take prompt disciplinary action against policemen convicted and sentenced for murder of two innocent citizens. The Court is therefore constrained to direct the MHA to institute an appropriate inquiry by a senior level officer not below the rank of additional secretary in the MHA to inquire into the facts and circumstances under which there was delay in taking disciplinary action against the 10 convicted policemen and fix responsibility on the concerned officers," the court added.
"This case serves to highlight the steps that ought to be taken, within the framework of the legal system, in a situation of proven police violence resulting in violation of human rights," added Justice Muralidhar.
The order comes two months after the Supreme Court upheld the life sentence awarded by trial court to former ACP S S Rathi and nine other cops on May 2 for killing Pradeep Goyal and Jagjit Singh claiming they were "gangsters".
Following the order, Neema Goyal said, "Im not happy with Rs 15 lakh compensation. A precious life was lost. My husband was innocent..
The amount is a kind of peanuts. I have spent more than this amount on lawyers."
Goyal and Kaur had moved the Delhi high court for compensation soon after the October 24, 2007 trial court judgment convicting the police officials. The high court had upheld the punishment in September 2009, calling the "unprovoked indiscriminate firing" as "totally unjustified".
On the afternoon of March 31, 1997, a Delhi Police Crime Branch team led by encounter specialist Rathi had fired indiscriminately on a car on the suspicion that the businessmen were wanted Uttar Pradesh-based gangsters.
However, the team ended up gunning down two innocent businessmen.