A police bullet fired apparently to puncture a stunt biker’s tyre killed a 19-year-old riding pillion on the speeding vehicle in the heart of Delhi in the early hours of Sunday.
The bullet struck Karan Pandey’s lower back as his friend and rider Puneet Sharma, also 19, reportedly pulled a wheelie to make a getaway along with more than three dozen other speed demons from a posse of police personnel around 2am.
A police officer who did not want to be named said as Pandey listlessly slunk off the seat and fell to the ground, the impact propelled Sharma beyond the bike’s front and onto the road.
Both were rushed to Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital, where Pandey was declared dead on arrival. Sharma was admitted to the hospital with injuries to his head and torso. Both were allegedly under the influence of alcohol.
Pandey and Sharma, both from Khirki Village near south Delhi’s Malviya Nagar, along with the other bikers were speeding down the Ashoka Road towards the Central Secretariat when they encountered the police.
According to the police, the shot was fired after the bikers ignored two warning shots fired in the air and several announcements directing them to halt.
“The men were part of a group of 30 to 35 bikers,” said Deepak Mishra, special commissioner of police (law and order). “Several such groups were running amok in the New Delhi district at the time of the incident. Though attempts made to make them fall in line were met with hurling of stones on police personnel, the aim was certainly not to kill and the incident is unfortunate.”
The bullet that proved fatal was fired from a licenced revolver by an inspector manning a PCR van. The van had been wrecked by stones hurled by other bikers in the group.
“Seconds before the shot was fired, a PCR van, stationed below the Le Meridien Hotel, had directed the bikers to halt over the loudspeaker,” said another police officer.
“Instead of paying heed, some from the group threw stones on the PCR van as they sped past. The vehicle the victims were riding was following them and happened to be somewhat towards the end of the pack. The official concerned aimed at its rear wheel and pulled the trigger.”
The officer added the shot would have hit the wheel had Sharma not tilted his bike between an angle of 75 and 80 degrees while performing a wheelie. This put Pandey’s back in the line of fire.
The police have registered a case of rioting and obstructing a public servant from discharging his duty. The matter is also being investigated by a metropolitan magistrate under section 176 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC).
With bikers taking to the capital’s streets after dark with alarming regularity, the Delhi Police, over just the last three weekends, have checked over 8,000 bikes, fined 1,012 riders for varying offences and impounded around 160 vehicles.
Teenager’s mother demands death penalty for cops who shot him
Karan Pandey's mother Manju accused the police of high-handedness and demanded death penalty for those who had killed her son.
"I did not even know that my son wasn't at home," she cried. "The police turned up around 6.30am and told me he had been involved in an accident. When we reached hospital, we were told he was dead."
"He slept with us last night. I don't know when he went out. He does not have a bike and he does not know how to ride one," she added.
"They don't fire at terrorists and criminals. My son was not a thief or a dacoit. Police have wronged, as they don't have the right to kill a child. The police officials who killed him should be hanged."
She added, "If he was indulging in hooliganism or had misbehaved with them, they could have lathicharged or arrested him, but they shouldn't have fired at him. He was my only son."
Manju said reports about the rider Sharma being injured and admitted to hospital were false. "In fact, at 6.30am he had come with the cops, accompanied by his father, to our house."
She demanded that Sharma be arrested and questioned. She also demanded her son's post-mortem be conducted by a team of doctors.
Sharma's mother Kusumlata said, "If they had done something wrong, police could have arrested them. Why did they have to fire?"
She added her son left home around 11 pm on Saturday, saying he would not return that night.