On September 24, gangster Jitender Gogi and his two assailants were shot inside a crowded courtroom at Rohini district court complex. The Delhi High Court took suo motu cognisance of the shootout, and issued a set of guidelines on November 24. The Delhi Police then submitted a report stating it has installed 85 door-frame metal detectors and 125 hand-held detectors at various district court complexes to ramp up security.
Yet, on December 9, the Rohini district court complex witnessed its second violent incident. A low intensity IED in a laptop bag went off and injured a court constable. The blast has raised many questions on Delhi Police's vigilance, cooperation from visiting lawyers and litigants, infrastructural hurdles and security of undertrial prisoners attending court cases.
A new playground for festering gang rivalries
According to a police officer, on the condition of anonymity, primary reasons behind the occurrence of such violent incidents at Rohini court are the rising gang wars and emergence of a new crop of gangsters in nearby areas of Bawana, Narela and Bahadurgarh.
"Gang wars are a major concern, where in a bid to display might and strength, gang members commit such acts and courts have had to bear the brunt. These gangs are well-established and have a lot of money to recruit and train new boys from these areas. These young boys end up doing tasks on behalf of their masters," the official adds.
Given the large footfall of litigants, it becomes a task for the security officials to check each and every person entering the court. The Rohini district court complex alone has witnessed three such skirmishes.
In the September shootout, the two armed assailants who killed gangster Jitender Gogi inside a Rohini courtroom and ultimately gunned down by police personnel in the same skirmish, had dressed up as lawyers.
Investigation revealed that Sunil Mann alias Tillu Tajpuriya had allegedly hatched the murder plot from inside Mandoli jail.
The Special Cell also arrested two men and recovered a car used to drop the assailants to court. One of the arrested men was a close associate of Tajpuriya, Gogi's longtime rival.
In November 2017, the fallout of a gang rivalry resulted into the murder of a 30-year-old undertrial that was shot dead at point-blank range near a police post inside the premises of a Rohini courtroom. Abdul Khan, 19, shot him thrice before he put down his country-made pistol and surrendered.
In April 2017, Praveen alias Mota shot dead one Rajesh Durmat outside a Rohini court. The accused is from the infamous Kala Aasaudia gang and is a close associate of gangster Neeraj Bawana. Durmat was murdered in retaliation for his gang’s alleged involvement in the murder of Rajeev alias Kala Aasodia, Bawana’s uncle.
Similar gangs operate in the trans-Yamuna area. Karkardooma court, too, has witnessed several gang rivalries. In December 2015, members of the Abdul Nasir gang of Jafrabad attempted to kill gang-leader Irfan alias Chennu Pehalwan of Chennu gang in Wazirabad who was produced at Karkardooma court.
The gangs have been fighting for supremacy over the betting business since 2012. As soon as the constable entered the courtroom with Chennu, four juveniles from the gang opened fire. Three bullets hit the constable, who died at the spot. Chennu and a court clerk were injured in the firing.
Outside help in securing access to lethal items
While the cops are struggling to put a rein on gang wars, security personnel at court premises are faced with the difficult task of inspecting relatives and friends of undertrial prisoners attending the hearings.
A head constable, on the condition of anonymity, says information and materials like knives, guns and drugs, are smuggled into prison holding the accused or convicts by relatives and friends during their case hearings.
"Once an accused exchanged his footwear with his brother in the court premise and on inspection I found that he had inserted drugs in the footwear by carving a hole in it." he adds. "I have caught several women bringing opium, tobacco, knives, scissors and threads," says security guard
Deepali Singh, deployed on one of the gates of Saket district court.The new high court guidelines for high-risk Under Trial Prisoners (UTPs) states that as far as possible their appearance will be secured through virtual mode.
"Wherever or whenever there is a necessity to produce such UTPs, abundant care and precautions such as providing adequate police escort and checking/frisking, etc. shall be taken," the court order stated. The implementation process, however, will continue to pose a challenge if the administration is unable to prevent the growing gang nexus.
Staff shortage despite multi-layer security Amidst this, the security deployed in courts also complains of staff shortage. Saket court, which has been identified as the model court for all district courts by a survey conducted by Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy, has the best security system with a three-tier security layer by the Delhi Police, Delhi Police Special Security and the court administration’s own staff.
However, officials say it still needs more staff and is not as per the requirement of the court. After the September shootout in Rohini, CRPF has been roped in to ramp up vigilance in all courts.Defects in key infrastructural security elements
Meanwhile, as the Delhi Police is investigating the Rohini bomb blast matter and checking all the CCTV cameras installed within court premises, as it is unable to spot the suspects. According to court officials, the Rohini court premise has close to 75 CCTV cameras. The cameras are installed at the main gates, court hall area and the police post. But no camera has been installed in the corridor and inside Room No. 102, where the incident took place.
In all the district courts, around hundreds of CCTV cameras have been installed; most of them are either non-functional or not placed correctly.As per Advocate Love Dixit, Additional Secretary of Karkardooma Bar Association, 635 cameras are installed in Karkardooma court complex out of which, 119 are not working due to some or other construction work. This has made it a vulnerable ground for the perpetration of criminal activities.
Bringing the camel down the mountain
Dixit says that despite installing CCTV cameras and full body scanners, unless the lawyers, litigants and police officials cooperate with the security officials, nothing can work out. "Many a times, the lawyers do not want to be checked in court. During rush hours, not many are patient enough to get inspected thoroughly. Even the vehicles that enter court premises are passed based on the sticker they have on the cars but who knows what is inside? Earlier, a pass system had been issued but it was done away with." says Dixit.
Joint Secretary of Rohini District Bar Association, Arvind Vats, points to the fact that anyone can enter court premises in the garb of a lawyer or a police official. "A thorough inspection of lawyers and litigants are conducted with the help of scanners and metal detectors, but the police officials and the case property they bring to the court are not checked enough," he says.
He says that the bar has raised this issue a number of times with the city police that officials visiting the court for case hearings should also be checked. "In the name of case property, we do not know what all is brought inside the court. A case property can have anything from bombs to guns. Anybody with a fake police uniform can enter the premises of the court and a constable at the security check will not dare to inspect him," says Vats.
While the Delhi Police continues to investigate the December 9 bomb blast and drawing of conclusions as to who could have kept the assembled the bomb in the tiffin box and planted it inside the courtroom, it also has to ensure that the recent Delhi High Court guidelines are implemented with immediate effect.
Rohini Court Bar Association Additional Secretary Pradeep Khatri feels that better coordination is required between security officials, court administration, judicial officers and lawyers. "We laud the efforts by the security agencies, but a laid back attitude should not creep in after every 7-10 days of any incident. The security should remain stringent throughout, even on weekends," he adds.