A day after a Delhi court sentenced Shahzad Ahmad to life imprisonment after convicting him for the murder of police inspector MC Sharma in the Batla house shootout, defence counsel Satish Tamta said that the court had proposed its own theory while arriving at the conclusion that Shahzad had escaped after shooting at police officers.
The Batla House encounter took place on September 19, 2008 (six days after the Delhi serial blasts) between the Special Cell of the Delhi Police (which was investigating the serial blasts) and suspected terrorists at a flat (No. 108, L-18) located in a crowed and predominantly Muslim neighbourhood called Batla House in South Delhi.
The shootout left Inspector MC Sharma and two alleged terrorists (Atif Ameen and Mohammad Sajid) dead. Shahzad and Junaid (still absconding) were said to have escaped by jumping off the roof of the fourth floor apartment.
Speaking at a press conference on Wednesday, called by the Jamia Teachers’ Solidarity Association, Shahzad’s counsel Tamta said, "According to the prosecution, there were about 19 police officers of the Special Cell involved in this operation. They were all stationed within the periphery of the building at various places, right from the entrance of the gali, to backside of building, the front-side, including staircases. The witnesses have stated that so long as they were present no one entered or came out of the building. Still, the judge has substituted his own theory to say that Shahzad may have passed through the police cordon as one of the residents of the building."
Recounting the prosection’s case on Shahzad’s and Junaid’s escape, Tamta said, "Immediately after police entered the flat, the prosecution says, MC Sharma received injuries, Atif was shot down and two people escaped. Inspector Rahul says he chased them. He says he ran to the roof and but could not locate them. Subsequently, he told the court that he also checked the flat opposite 108 but could not find them. So till then the story remained that the two boys ran to the roof and thereafter they could not be located.
"L-18 is a four story flat. The neighbouring flats L17 and L19 are single story flats. If someone has to jump from the roof of fourth floor to first floor, it is a 40 feet jump. How can someone jump 40 feet? I don’t think it was the case of the prosecution that Shahzad was Superman or Spiderman. This aspect went unnoticed by the trial court. And then the trial court has substituted its own theory that in this process he (Shahzad) may have passed off as one of residents of the building. This was neither the case of the prosecution nor the case the defence. The court has substituted its own version on this story."
Tamta said that many questions have remained unanswered.
Responding to a question on whether judgement had made any reference to the terror outfit Indian Mujahideen (IM) and whether it had been established whether Shahzad was a member of IM, Tamta said, "The chargesheet talked about Indian Mujahideen. And the judgment begins by talking about the Indian Mujahideen, it talks about how the Special cell was planning to nab the suspects. But the judgement subsequently goes on to state that it is irrelevant whether Shahzad was an Indian Mujahideen member or not.
"It is very strange that the judgment starts by talking about the Indian Mujahideen and subsequently says that it is not an issue. I think it was an issue that should have been answered. But no evidence was led by the prosecution to show that Shahzad was Indian Mujahideen."
The Jamia Teachers’ Solidarity Association, which was among the civil society groups that was at the forefront of demanding a judicial enquiry into the Batla House encounter, today released a report titled Beyond Reasonable Doubt? The Conviction of the Shahzad Ahmad analysing the judgment.
"The recent verdict by the Additional Sessions court in Saket, which convicted Shahzad Ahmad for the killing of Inspector MC Sharma in the ‘encounter’ at Batla House in 2008, is being seen as a ‘closure’ to the controversies surrounding the firing. However, the verdict has raised more questions that it has answered. Beyond Reasonable Doubt analyses the judgement and reminds all that the issue is far from any closure,” the Association said in a statement.