|Papiya Sarkar in the Raiganj district hospital; (above) a glass pane of the court hit by a bullet. Pictures by Nantu Dey
Raiganj, Dec. 20: A man shot at a murder accused who had come to Raiganj court today, the bullet missing the apparent target but punching a hole in the windowpane of the building six feet from her.
Papiya Sarkar, 31, who had come to the North Dinajpur court with her co-accused husband, ran along with other people on the crowded court complex before falling down. She said she heard a second gunshot.
“When I was entering the compound through the south gate, I saw three youths standing there. Seconds after walking past them, I heard a sound. I turned and saw a man with a gun in his hand. I panicked and ran,” said Papiya, who is accused with her husband and another person in the 2009 murder of a photographer of a local cable TV channel with whose owner the trio allegedly had a rivalry.
Eyewitness Badal Das, who ran to Papiya’s rescue along with several others, said the bullet was fired from a distance of around 15 feet from the lady. “I heard a gunshot behind me. When I turned around, I saw two youths rush past me. I could make out that one of them was dark and stocky,” Das said.
Papiya’s lawyer husband Chanchal took her to hospital with an injured right knee. The couple had been called to court today so that charges could be read out to them.
The prosecution lawyer alleged the firing was a ploy to delay the case. Police are yet to establish the reason for the alleged attack. In the past few months, Raiganj has been rocked by gang wars with political undertones.
In 2009, Papiya, Chanchal and anti-social Biplab Chhetri had allegedly murdered photographer Biswajay Ghosh, the crime coinciding with the couple’s attempts to start a cable channel. The channel never went on air. Police officers refused comment when asked about the reason for Ghosh’s murder.
Court sources said the gates were not guarded. There are no metal detectors or other security devices, either.
After the firing, lawyers protested the “lack of security” and ceased work for the day.
Raiganj has witnessed several cases of street shootouts between gangs, but never on the premises of the court, the police said.
The police reached the court 15 minutes after the firing. “We have found an empty 9mm cartridge at the spot of the shooting,” an officer said.
Deputy superintendent of police, headquarters, Pradip Kumar Singh, said: “We have taken a serious note of the incident. We can confirm that a bullet was fired.”
Prosecution lawyer Sandip Kumar Bhattacharya said: “The hearing was supposed to start at 10am. But the accused lady reached the court at 2pm, saying her lawyer was not ready. The firing could be an attempt to delay the trial. We have enough evidence against Chanchal, his wife and Chhetri.”
Chanchal, who had been arrested along with Papiya by the CID on March 2, 2010, and is out on bail, said they had been framed. “Those who are trying to implicate us tried to kill my wife today,” he said.
Lawyers protested in front of police officer Singh and demanded security on the court premises. The lawyers would observe a cease-work tomorrow too.
Naba Kumar Roy, the president of the North Dinajpur Bar Association, said people had lost faith in the police. “There have been a number shootouts between gangs in Raiganj recently. There is no security for anyone.”