Thirteen years after bandit-turned-politician Phoolan Devi was killed outside her official MP’s residence here, a court Thursday sentenced convict Sher Singh Rana to life for her murder.
Additional Sessions Judge Bharat Parashar awarded the life term to 35-year-old Rana, and also slapped a fine of Rs.1 lakh on him.
“However, keeping in view the overall facts and circumstances of the case, when the incident resulted not only in the murder of Phoolan Devi but grievous and serious injuries were also caused to constable Balender… so, I am of the considered opinion that the interest of justice will be suitably met if convict Sher Singh Rana is sentenced with rigorous imprisonment for life,” the judge said.
“Once again I may mention that ‘R-R’ (rarest of rare) test also does not stand fully proved against the convict. I am thus of the considered opinion that awarding of death penalty would be completely disproportionate to the crime committed in the present case,” the court said.
The court Aug 8 convicted Rana, who gunned down Phoolan Devi, once popularly known as “Bandit Queen”, to avenge the 1981 Behmai massacre in which she killed 22 people from the Thakur community.
In its verdict, the judge also observed that the prosecution failed to prove the motive of crime.
The court convicted Rana on charges of murder and attempt to murder with common intention. However, he was acquitted of criminal conspiracy and under the Arms Act.
Rana, who was keenly listening to the judgment, did not show any emotion.
His counsel Mukesh Kalia claimed his client was innocent and will challenge the trial court’s verdict in the Delhi High Court.
However, Phoolan’s elder sister Rukmani Devi told reporters outside the court that she will seek revision of the verdict as it let off 10 other accused in the case.
She also said she will seek death penalty for Rana in the higher court.
At the time of her murder, Phoolan Devi, whose dramatic life inspired many books and internationally acclaimed movie “Bandit Queen”, was a Samajwadi Party parliamentarian from Mirzapur in Uttar Pradesh.
Phoolan Devi was shot dead July 25, 2001, outside her residence in New Delhi by Rana and his associates, police said.
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 and the rest were let off. Rana was arrested July 27, 2001.
The court also observed that Rana has already spent about 11 years behind bars during the long protracted trial which lasted for more than 13 years.
However, in 2004, he fled from the high security Tihar Jail. In 2006, he was arrested in Kolkata, brought back to Delhi and lodged again in Tihar Jail.
At this, the court said: “The fact that Rana escaped from jail for a period of about two years is a factor which goes against him.”
However, the court found that during Rana’s jail term, no complaint regarding his behaviour was reported by any inmates and jail authorities. The court also observed that Rana has an old mother and his father expired during the pendency of the trial.
The court said: “The act of convict Sher Singh Rana cannot be termed as an attack on a democratic institution of the country viz. parliament.”
However, the court agreed with the prosecution that the assailants either wanted to kill constable Balender or maim him so that he may not depose against them in court.
However, the court rejected the plea of Rana’s counsel seeking leniency on the ground that Phoolan Devi was sentenced to 11 years for killing 22 Thakurs.
“I may also mention that the contention of counsel for convict that Phoolan Devi was sentenced to a period of imprisonment of about 11 years only, for killing 22 Thakurs and so a much lenient sentence be imposed, does not hold ground at all. This argument deserves to be rejected outrightly being completely vague and does not even require a discussion,” the court said.