In a twist to the shootout case involving liquor baron Ponty Chadha and his younger brother Hardeep, a Delhi court has dropped murder charges against all 21 accused, including sacked Uttarakhand minorities panel chief Sukhdev Singh Namdhari.
The court, however, added the offence of culpable homicide not amounting to murder against the alleged main conspirator (Namdhari) and his personal security officer Sachin Tyagi. It entails maximum punishment of life imprisonment.
The sessions court gave elaborate reasons for dropping murder charges and invoking culpable homicide not amounting to murder against Namdhari and Tyagi.
It said the November 17, 2012, shootout that resulted in the killing of Ponty and Hardeep "seems to be an event which happened suddenly and unexpectedly."
"The appearance of Hardeep Singh at the scene was sudden and unexpected, it was he who had fired at the injured Narender Ahlawat (Ponty's manager, who is also an accused in the case) and also pumped in several bullets into elder brother Gurdeep Singh Chadha (Ponty).
"Thereafter, Namdhari and Sachin (Tyagi) used their firearms and shot Hardeep, which resulted in his death... Thus, these acts bring in culpable homicide by Namdhari and Sachin within the domain of exception 4 of Section 300 of the IPC," additional sessions judge Vimal Kumar Yadav said while ordering the framing of charges against the accused persons.
The remaining 19 accused were charged with attempt to murder. The charges will be framed formally against all 21 accused on Wednesday.
Besides attempt to murder, the court has also ordered framing of various charges against them under the Indian Penal Code (IPC), including dacoity, rioting with deadly weapons, house trespass, illegal confinement, kidnapping, causing grievous harm and destruction of evidence. Ponty and Hardeep were also chargesheeted in the case. However, the trial against them has abated as they were killed in the shootout.
The court also ordered framing of charges of criminal conspiracy, common intention and those under the Arms Act against all 21 accused for trying to take over the disputed farmhouse from Hardeep's possession.
Ponty and Hardeep, who allegedly had a property dispute, were killed in a shootout at a Chhattarpur farmhouse here on November 17, 2012.
The Delhi Police had filed two chargesheets in the case and levelled murder charges against the 21 accused.
The first chargesheet had named Ponty as an accused as he had reached the spot with Namdhari and others as part of his "well-hatched conspiracy" to take possession of the south Delhi farmhouse.
The supplementary chargesheet had accused Hardeep in the case, saying that the probe had shown Ponty was killed by the shot fired at him by his brother.
The judge, in his 40-page order, however, said "Since the murder does not seem to be part of the conspiracy hatched by Gurdeep and Namdhari, therefore, the same could at the most be a separate conspiracy which was instantly worked out on the spot in which not everybody was involved."
"In case murder was on the agenda/part of the conspiracy, then the forcible dispossession would not have been carried out in such a brazen manner. The conspiracy could be at the most attributed to Namdhari, Sachin and Narender." It said, "Even that seems to be a remote possibility by virtue of how the shootout took place. Had there been any intention of the accused persons, especially Namdhari and Sachin or Gurdeep to kill Hardeep, then they would not have waited and given time to Hardeep to fire upon Narender and certainly not, thereafter, upon Gurdeep."
"Therefore, in these circumstances, the shootout seems to be an event which happened suddenly and unexpectedly," it said.
The judge further said, "The intention of Hardeep can be inferred from the fact that several rounds were fired by him, therefore, he had the intention to kill, but the same may not be necessarily true with regard to Namdhari, Sachin in as much as they came into action as a reaction and started firing only when Narender was shot at and, thereafter, Gurdeep also received bullet injuries...."