Sher Singh Rana didn’t plot the murder of Phoolan Devi nor could the police prove he was the one to gun down the bandit-turned-politician yet he was convicted. And, on Thursday sentenced to life in jail for the sensational killing.
A sessions court in Delhi chose to convict Rana on the grounds of “extra-judicial confessions” made by him during press conferences in Dehradun from where he was arrested on July 27, 2001, two days after Devi, 37, was shot dead in the heart of Delhi’s power district.
His lawyer, who plans to challenge the judgement, and other legal experts have said the order, which came after more than 10 years of trial, is seriously flawed and may even be overturned by higher courts.
There are several contradictions in the 217-page verdict that convicts Rana, 35, of murder and common intention to kill. Common intention requires presence of at least one other accused, but the verdict is silent on that.
“It could not be conclusively established as to whether…Rana was amongst the two shooters who fired at Smt. Phoolan Devi… or was the driver of car no. CIM 907 in which the two shooters fled away…” additional sessions judge Bharat Parashar said.
The prosecution also failed to prove that Rana owned an unlicensed arm or used it on Devi, who was felled by a hail of bullets from two country-made guns.
“It cannot be presumed that Rana was in possession of any unlicensed arm, much less he used it in the incident in question,” Parashar said.
The court, which had framed charges of murder, criminal conspiracy, attempt to murder, common intention, and illegal possession of firearms against 11, including Rana, acquitted all but him.
Though the court clearly said the conspiracy to kill Devi, who was then a Samajwadi Party MP, had not been proved by the prosecution, it still declared Rana guilty.
It was proved beyond a shadow of doubt that Singh committed the crime with two others, the court said. But the order is silent on the identity of Singh’s two accomplices, leaving many questions unanswered as all other accused have been let off.
Rana’s lawyer Mukesh Kalia said there were several glaring contradictions in the judgment. “We are aggrieved by the findings against Rana. He has been wrongly convicted. We are going approach the Delhi high court within a week,” he said.
Senior counsel KTS Tulsi told HT the judgment was self-contradictory. “He’s been convicted on the basis of extra-judicial confessions which would normally not be accepted unless there was strong evidence to corroborate it. So the judgment is seriously flawed and may even be overturned,” Tulsi said.
The prosecution even failed to prove that Singh gave false evidence, or used forged documents to gain access to the area where Devi lived. The once-dreaded dacoit, who virtually ruled the ravines of central India, was killed outside the gates of her Ashoka Road residence.