Sher Singh Rana's presence at Phoolan Devi'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 sealed his fate with a Delhi court convicting him for killing the bandit-turned-politician in 2001.
Additional Sessions Judge Bharat Parashar, who on August 8 held Rana guilty of offences under sections 302 (murder), 307 (attempt to murder) and 34 (common intention) under the IPC in the case, concluded in his verdict that he 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 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 judge held in his 217-page judgement.
The court had on August 8 convicted Rana in the case while it had acquitted 10 other co-accused in the sensational murder of Phoolan who was then a Lok Sabha MP.
The court, in its verdict, noted that three persons were involved in the shooting incident, of whom two had fired at Phoolan and her PSO while one drove away the car in which they fled the spot.
"However, it is clear form the overall facts and circumstances of the case that there were indeed three persons involved in the actual shooting incident and out of them while two fired towards Phoolan Devi and Balender, the third drove away car No. CIM-907 facilitating the escape of the two shooters from the spot," the court, which is scheduled to pronounce the quantum of sentence tomorrow, said.
"These circumstances coupled with non-furnishing of any explanation by accused Sher Singh Rana as regards his presence or the circumstances in which his car No.CIM-907 came to be used by the assailants is in itself sufficient to draw the conclusion that accused Sher Singh Rana was either one of the two assailants who fired at Phoolan Devi and Balender or was their third accomplice who drove away car... facilitating the escape of two shooters," it said.
The court, however, clarified the prosecution has not been able to establish the identity of the two other persons who were involved in the crime.
"It is thus clear that the murder of Phoolan Devi or the murderous attack upon Balender was carried out by accused Sher Singh Rana in furtherance of common intention shared by his two other accomplice whose identity though otherwise could not be established by the prosecution in the present case," it said.
The court, in its verdict, 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..."
It said the two "extra judicial confessions" made by Rana, one at a press conference at Dehradun and the other at the Dallanwala police station there, provides yet another link to the circumstantial chain of circumstances.
"Thus, the aforesaid incriminating circumstances which stands proved on record against accused Sher Singh Rana form such a continuous and complete chain of incriminating circumstances which are explainable only on one hypothesis which is consistent with the guilt of accused Sher Singh Rana only and is not explainable on any other ground much less being consistent with the innocence of accused Sher Singh Rana," the judge said.
The court, in its judgement, also held that Rana's guilt in murdering Phoolan and attempting to kill Balender stands proved beyond shadows of all reasonable doubts.
"....it is thus clear that though any conspiracy to commit murder of Phoolan Devi or that of Balender having been hatched by Sher Singh Rana along with other co-accused persons could not be proved by prosecution but at the cost of repetition I may state that the guilt of accused Sher Singh Rana qua the murder of Phoolan Devi and his act of attempting to commit murder of Balender in furtherance of common intention shared by him with two other persons stand amply proved beyond shadows of all reasonable doubts," it said.
The court also held that Rana has "clearly failed" in explaining his presence at Phoolan's residence here since morning on the fateful day.
"It is in these circumstances the abscondance of accused Sher Singh Rana from the house of Phoolan Devi right from the time when the firing incident took place and thereafter staying in hotels by impersonating himself as Anoop Singh operates as a strong incriminating circumstance against him," it said.
The judge also noted that use of Rana's car by assailants and his absence from the house at the time of the incident were the two most important pieces of evidence against him.
"The use of car No.CIM-907 belonging to Sher Singh Rana by the assailants or his absence from the house at the time of incident are in fact the most important incriminating piece of evidence which tends to connect accused Sher Singh Rana with the offence in question. Admittedly, accused Sher Singh Rana was present since morning at the house of Phoolan Devi on the day of incident," it said.
It said Rana's car used by the assailants would also be proved by the fact that a bullet fired by Balender from his service revolver had hit the rear glass of the car which was corroborated by the forensic report.
Meanwhile, regarding the other 10 co-accused who were facing trial in the case, the court said the prosecution has failed to prove beyond reasonable doubt that they were involved in the conspiracy to eliminate Phoolan.
The court 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.
"In view of my aforesaid discussion, it is thus crystal clear that the claim of the prosecution that the two assailants or the driver of Car No. CIM-907 were not wearing masks at the time of the incident is not correct.
"In fact, it is not only that there are doubts about the correctness of this claim of the prosecution but from the overall circumstances, it is clear beyond doubt that the two assailants and the driver of Car No. CIM-907 were wearing masks at the time of incident," it said.
On 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 said it was "not only very vague in nature but also does not inspire much confidence."
"Similarly, to state that accused Sher Singh Rana being a Thakur wanted to avenge the killing of Thakurs by Phoolan Devi or thereby wanted to establish himself as a leader of Thakur community and in the process earning name, fame and money by a short cut method will be a conclusion purely based on conjectures and surmises, which is not permitted under the law," the judge said.
37-year-old Phoolan, then a Samajwadi Party MP from Mirzapur constituency in Uttar Pradesh, was killed in front of her Ashoka Road residence here on July 25, 2001.
Among the 10 co-accused acquitted in the case are -- 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.
Phoolan was shot dead from close range by three masked gunmen in the heart of the capital's VIP area as she returned home for lunch after attending the Lok Sabha.