If the public outcry that the recent gangrape of a 23-year-old woman evoked can find resonance in the infamous Sanjay-Geeta Chopra or 'Ranga-Billa' case of 1978, so can the course justice took to punish its perpetrators at that time, seasoned investigators believe.
Reported on August 26, 1978 the 'Ranga-Billa' case saw two teenagers, children of a senior Naval officer, being subjected to sadistic torture, before being murdered by two hardened Bombay criminals, who had just been released from the Arthur Road Jail. Sanjay and Geeta Chopra had hitched a ride on their stolen, cream-colour Fiat car on the ridge near Dhaula Kuan. The siblings were on their way to the All India Radio building at Parliament Street for a radio programme.
"Their bodies were sniffed out by some livestock which had been temporarily shifted to the Dhaula Kuan ridge two days later," recalled an officer who had investigated the case. "The car, later found to have been stolen from the Ashoka Hotel, was discovered at Rajendra Nagar the next day."
"In both cases, the men who executed the crime were roaming with the intent to commit one. Similarly, they were nailed with key forensic evidence and were injured by their brave victims," the officer said.
In 1978, samples of the Chopra siblings' blood and hair had been recovered from the floor of the vehicle on which they had been brutalised. A doctor at the Wellingdon Hospital, now Ram Manohar Lohia hospital, found blood on the thumbs of Kuljit Singh alias Ranga and Jasbir Singh alias Billa. They had gone to the hospital for treatment after meeting with an accident near Gol Dak Khana. It became a damning evidence against them later.
In the present case, the police, who claimed to have recovered samples of prime accused Ram Singh's skin and hair from the nails of his 23-year-old victim, are currently awaiting reports of a dental-forensic test to prove that she had bitten three of her six attackers in her defence.
Ranga and Billa were hung within four years of the horrendous crime being reported. Its victims, Geeta and Sanjay Chopra, had bravery awards instituted in their names by the Indian Council for Child Welfare.
Another officer associated with investigation claimed the case indicated how existing laws, if properly applied, could lead to capital punishment for the perpetrators of a demonic act.
For the police, the Ranga-Billa case had many firsts.
It was the first challenge confronted by the first police officer to be appointed Commissioner of the Delhi Police - JN Chaturvedi. It was the first 'purely scientific investigation' ever conducted in the Capital, and the only case in which capital punishment was awarded to the perpetrators of 'murder most foul' - yet.
Ranga and Billa were arrested after they got into a compartment reserved for military personnel on their way to Bombay from Agra. They were handed over to the police at Old Delhi Railway Station and were recognised from the posters put up at the police station.
"They were sent to Tihar where they testified against each other and were finally hanged in 1982," the officer said.