IM terrorist convicted in Batla House shootout, mixed reaction to verdict
An Indian Mujahideen (IM) operative was Thursday held guilty by a Delhi court in the 2008 Batla House shootout here, and the family of a killed police inspector as well as political leaders hailed the verdict while some groups and area residents expressed their dismay.
Finance Minister P. Chidambaram, who earlier was the home minister, said he was glad that "police have been able to prove their case", and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) stressed it was a boost to anti-terror forces.
Additional Sessions Judge Rajender Kumar Shastri convicted IM terror group's operative Shahzad Ahmad for killing Inspector M.C. Sharma and fixed July 29 for arguments on sentencing.
Ahmad, from Azamgarh in Uttar Pradesh, was said to be present in a flat in Batla House neighbourhood in Jamia Nagar area in south Delhi when the shootout took place.
The Sep 19, 2008, exchange of fire took place between a seven-member Delhi Police Special Cell team, led by Inspector Sharma, and suspected Indian Mujahideen terrorists who were allegedly involved in the Sep 13, 2008, serial blasts in Delhi that killed 26 people.
The court, during the arguments, questioned why Sharma was not wearing a bullet-proof jacket when he knew that he was leading the team to catch terror suspects and why two police officers were not carrying arms.
"It agitates my mind that the incident in question was not a sudden confrontation between police and the assailants."
"Police had already information, receiving which a raiding party was formed well in advance. Despite all this, Inspector M.C. Sharma did not wear any body protection device i.e. bullet-proof jacket. Moreover, at least two members of the raiding party were having no weapon with them, despite knowing the fact that they may face firing."
"It is not clear whether it was merely a misadventure or lack of professionalism in Delhi Police or scarcity of weapons," the judge said.
Police filed the charge sheet against Ahmad April 28, 2010, and the prosecution examined around 70 witnesses, including six eye-witnesses who were part of the police raid team.
Sharma's family expressed satisfaction over the verdict.
His octogenarian father, Naurottam Sharma, told IANS: "I am satisfied with the court's decision, but await the final judgment. I am worried that the accused can move the higher court."
Jamia Teachers Solidarity Association (JTSA) expressed their disappointment at the verdict, and said they would approach the higher court to seek justice for Ahmad.
"It was a huge disappointment for us. We will definitely approach the higher court for justice," said Manisha Sethi, president of JTSA.
A section of people in the Batla House neighbourhood aired dissatisfaction over the conviction, saying they knew the eventual outcome since their demand for a magisterial probe had been rejected.
Chidambaram told a TV channel: "I am glad that the police have been able to prove their case."
Asked about comments made by his Congress party colleagues like Digvijaya Singh, who had feared the shootout was fake, he said: "They (leaders) meant well. They were reflecting the views of the affected families or the people who lived in the area."
"Earlier, the NHRC (National Human Rights Commission) and the high court also held that there was no reason to doubt the genuineness of the encounter," he said.
The BJP said the conviction of Ahmad will go a long way in boosting the morale of the security forces fighting terror.
"There was a consistent campaign by several political parties, including the Congress, to declare it (shootout) fake... this verdict will go a long way in upholding the morale of those police officers fighting terror," BJP spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad said.
In a tweet, his party colleague Prakash Javedakar demanded Digvijaya Singh must apologise for his earlier remarks concerning the shootout.
He alleged the Congress should also apologise as Digvijaya Singh speaks not "off the cuff", but for Congress president Sonia Gandhi and vice-president Rahul Gandhi.
(Posted on 25-07-2013)