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Firing on court campus in Raiganj

Raiganj, Dec. 20: A man on the Raiganj district court premises today shot at a woman accused in a murder case when she was barely six feet away from the court building.

The bullet, which did not hit the woman, punched a hole in a court room window to her left.

Papiya Sarkar, the 31-year-old woman believed to be the intended target, said she heard a second shot too. By then she had fallen into a drain in a bid to escape.

Lawyers protested about lack of security and no work was taken up today in the court. Raiganj has witnessed several cases of street shootouts between gangs, but never on the premises of a court.

Papiya and her lawyer husband, Chanchal Sarkar, are co-accused in the murder of Biswajay Ghosh, a photographer with a local cable channel. Ghosh was murdered on November 27, 2009. Papiya had been summoned today to chargesheet her in the case.

The woman said she arrived in court around 2pm. “I entered the compound using the south gate. I saw three youths standing there. After I walked past them, I heard a sound. I turned and saw a man with a gun in his hand. I panicked and ran.” She said she “heard another shot” too.

The woman said: “I started shouting and people rushed in to help me. My husband, who was on the court premises, brought me to the hospital.” She has injured her right knee.

There is no guard at the gates of the Raiganj district court, nor is there any metal detector or other security device.

Badal Das, who was standing nearby and had rushed to Papiya’s aid, said: “I heard a shot behind me and as I turned around, I saw two youths rush past me. I could make out that one of them was of dark complexion and stocky built.” The shooter and the woman were barely 15 feet apart, he said.

Raiganj police reached the court 15 minutes after the incident. “We have found an empty 9mm cartridge where the shooting took place,” an officer said.

The deputy superintendent of police, headquarters, Pradip Kumar Singh, faced angry lawyers when he arrived in court. “We are taking a serious note of the incident. We can confirm that a shot was fired,” Singh said.

Prosecution lawyer Sandip Kumar Bhattacharya, however, said the shooting could be a ploy to delay the case. “The hearing was supposed to start at 10am. But the accused woman said her lawyer was not yet ready. She reached the court at 2pm and then the incident happened. It could be an attempt to delay trial. We have enough evidence against Chanchal, his wife and a criminal, Biplab Chhetri,” he said.

The accused trio used to run a cable TV channel and the deceased was a cameraman with a rival channel. The CID said Ghosh was murdered to instil fear in the rival.

Chanchal, who had been arrested along with his wife by the CID on March 2, 2010, said they had been framed. “I had said earlier that we have been framed and today’s attempt was an effort to kill my wife by those who are trying to implicate us falsely.”

The lawyers said they would observe a ceasework tomorrow demanding security on the premises.

Naba Kumar Roy, the president of the North Dinajpur Bar Association, said people had lost faith in the police. “There have been a number of incidents of shooting between criminal gangs in Raiganj recently. There is no security for anyone. We will observe a cease-work tomorrow to protest today’s incident and to demand proper security for us.”