New Delhi: A press conference 13 years ago at which Sher Singh Rana admitted to killing bandit-turned-politician Phoolan Devi nailed him and led to his conviction, the detailed order released Monday reveals.
Additional Sessions Judge Bharat Parashar Friday convicted Rana - who gunned down Phoolan Devi, popularly known as "Bandit Queen" July 25, 2001 - to avenge the 1981 Behmai massacre in which she killed 17 people of the high caste Thakur community.
Relying on the record of the extra judicial confessions made by accused Rana initially in the July 27, 2001 press conference held by him at Doon Press Club and subsequently after his arrest at Dallanwala (Dehradun, Uttarakhand) police station to prosecution witnesses Kishore Arora and Ashish Goyal - cameraman and reporter of a news agency - the court held him guilty in the case.
"In his said press conference prior to his arrest by the police, he admitted before the reporters and cameramen of different news agencies that he along with Rajender alias Ravinder committed the murder of Phoolan Devi and the murderous attack on constable Balender," the court said in its detailed order.
However, the court also opined that "a part of his said claim was found to be false later on as Rajender was found to be lodged in jail at the time of the incident but his statement certainly amounts to an extra judicial confession and thus cannot be brushed aside, especially in view of the other incriminating circumstances which stands proved against him on record".
The court held that statement of these independent witnesses from such a reputed news agency cannot be attributed any oblique motive in deposing falsely against accused Rana.
The court also noted the deposition of witness Rajesh Sharma, staff reporter of Doon Valley Mail, who stated that he interviewed Rana in the Doon Press Club before he was arrested by the police.
"He (Sharma) further said reporters from a number of newspapers were interviewing Sher Singh Rana at that time. To him also, Sher Singh Rana admitted that he has killed Phoolan Devi," the court said.
"I thus find these witnesses to be reliable and their deposition to be cogent and convincing."
"In the aforesaid facts and circumstances, I am of the considered opinion that the two extra judicial confessions made by accused Sher Singh Rana initially at the press conference held at the Doon Press Club and subsequently at Dallanwala police station are strong corroborative pieces of evidence lending support to the other incriminating circumstances which already stands proved against him," it said.
The court acquitted 10 other accused in the case. The quantum of punishment will be announced Aug 13.
Besides Rana, there were 11 other accused in the case. One of them, Pradeep, died of a heart attack in Tihar Jail in November 2013.
Rana was arrested July 27, 2001. However, he escaped from the high security Tihar Jail in 2004.
He was arrested from Kolkata in 2006 and brought back to Delhi where he was again lodged in the Tihar Jail.