Sher Singh Rana, the lone convict in the sensational murder of bandit-turned-politician Phoolan Devi here in 2001, was today awarded life imprisonment by a Delhi court which also imposed a fine of Rs one lakh on him. Additional Sessions Judge Bharat Parashar pronounced the order on sentence in a jam-packed courtroom where some of the family members and supporters of Rana were also present.
"For offence under Section 302/34 IPC, I award you life term and Rs 50,000 fine... For offence under Section 307, I award you life term with a fine of Rs 50,000," the judge said, adding that if Rana failed to deposit the penalty imposed on him, he will have to undergo six months imprisonment each in default. As soon as the judge pronounced the verdict, some family members of Rana and his supporters were in tears.
The court had on August 8 convicted Rana while it acquitted 10 other co-accused in the sensational murder of Phoolan who was then a Lok Sabha member. Rana was held guilty of offences under sections 302 (murder), 307 (attempt to murder) and 34 (common intention) under the IPC in the case.
37-year-old Phoolan, then a Samajwadi Party MP from Mirzapur constituency in Uttar Pradesh, was shot dead from close range by three masked gunmen in front of her Ashoka Road residence here in the heart of the capital's VIP area as she returned home for lunch after attending Lok Sabha on July 25, 2001.
During the arguments on quantum of sentence earlier, prosecution had sought death penalty for Rana contending that he had committed Phoolan's murder in a pre-planned and meticulous manner. The prosecution had said that Rana should be given the extreme punishment for the heinous crime as a person like him is a threat to society. Rana's counsel, however, had opposed the contentions of the prosecution saying the police has miserably failed to prove the motive behind the murder. Rana had sought leniency from the court, saying it should pardon him once and that his image has been tarnished by the police by lodging "false cases" against him.
"You (judge) are sitting on the chair of the God and what you say here comes directly from God's mouth," Rana had told the judge, adding that "You (judge) have pardoned the prosecution in this case so please pardon me also." The 10 co-accused acquitted in the case were -- Dhan Prakash, Shekhar Singh, Rajbir Singh, Vijay Singh alias Raju (Rana's brother), Rajender Singh alias Ravinder Singh, Keshav Chauhan, Praveen Mittal, Amit Rathi, Surender Singh Negi alias Suri and Sharavan Kumar. The proceedings against accused Pradeep Singh were abated as he died in Tihar Jail in November last year.
The court had convicted Rana after it was proved that he was present at Phoolan's residence since the morning of the incident day and his failure to explain as to how the assailants, who shot dead the slain MP, used his car in fleeing from the spot.
The court had concluded in its verdict that Rana was either one of the two assailants who had fired at Phoolan and her personal security officer (PSO) Balender on July 25, 2001 or was the third one who drove away the car.
The judge had held in his 217-page judgement, "the net result of the aforesaid discussion is that the prosecution has been able to prove that accused Sher Singh Rana, who was present at the house of Phoolan Devi since morning on July 25, 2001 was found absent right from the time of the incident and that the assailants used his car in fleeing from the spot." The court, however, had clarified the prosecution has not been able to establish the identity of the two other persons who were involved in the crime.
The court had also held although the finger prints of Rana tallied with one of the two pistols which were recovered from the car, "the said aspect is not free from doubts..." The court had also pulled up the police for a shoddy probe into the case on the issue of whether the three assailants were wearing masks at the time of the incident. On the police's claim that Rana had killed Phoolan to earn the leadership of Thakur community by avenging the killing of 22 Thakurs in the infamous Behmai massacre, the court had said it was "not only very vague in nature but also does not inspire much confidence."