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Why just me, asks Phoolan killer

New Delhi, Aug. 8 (PTI): A Delhi court today convicted key accused Sher Singh Rana for Phoolan Devi’s murder 13 years ago but let off all the other 10 suspects for lack of evidence.

The bandit-turned-politician, then 37 and a Samajwadi Party Lok Sabha member, was shot dead by three masked men in front of her Ashoka Road residence in the capital’s VIP enclave on July 25, 2001.

“Except Sher Singh Rana, I am acquitting all the accused. Sher Singh Rana is convicted for the offences under Sections 302 (murder), 307 (attempt to murder) and 34 (common intention) of the IPC,” additional sessions judge Bharat Parashar said and fixed August 12 as the date of sentencing.

Rana, 38, protested. “Why have you convicted only me? Others were also there,” he asked. The judge, however, said Rana was free to appeal. “I have passed the judgment, you can file an appeal in the high court.”

Among those acquitted was Rana’s brother, Vijay Singh alias Raju. One suspect died during trial last year.

The police had charged the 11 with eliminating Phoolan to avenge the 1981 Behmai massacre in which she had as a bandit allegedly killed over 22 Thakurs.

The police had said Rana, wanted to establish himself as a Thakur leader by masterminding the killing and ruled out any other motive. “Investigations were conducted discretely to ascertain whether there was any motive, other than the political aspirations of Sher Singh, for Phoolan Devi’s murder. These have, however, drawn a blank,” the chargesheet said.

“There was none else, except those arrested and being mentioned in the chargesheet either in the conspiracy or in the execution of the conspiracy,” the police had added.

Rana, who was known to Phoolan and had driven her to Parliament that day, waited for her to come back for lunch. After she got down from her car, Rana fired at her head while another of the gunmen allegedly pumped bullets in her stomach.

Later, Rana fired again at Phoolan as she fell to the ground. Another of the gunmen allegedly fired at Phoolan’s bodyguard who had retaliated by returning the fire, the chargesheet said. While fleeing, the gunmen dropped their country-made pistols.

The police had tracked down the cars used in the escape, weapons including a Webley Scott revolver, cellphones and SIM cards from the accused.

Forensic examination of the bullets extricated from the body of the slain MP had confirmed that they were fired from the weapons of the accused, the police had said.

All the accused were charged with murder, criminal conspiracy and destroying evidence. They also faced accusations of attempting to murder Phoolan’s security guard, besides offences under various provisions of the Arms Act.