Bijnor: Outside the chief judicial magistrate’s court at the Bijnor district court complex in Uttar Pradesh, there is a note written on the wall: No one is allowed to carry weapons except government officials/employees and police personnel on duty. But last Tuesday, in the courtroom that was full of people, over 20 rounds were fired from three pistols and a murder accused was shot dead.
Shahnawaz Ansari, the man who was killed, was produced in court Tuesday on the charge of conspiring to murder two persons. Suddenly, there was a burst of firing, and before anyone could react, 11 bullets had been pumped into his body.
Shahnawaz allegedly masterminded the murder of Najibabad property dealer and Bahujan Samaj Party leader Haji Ehsan and his nephew Shadab. He, along with an accomplice named Jabbar, was brought to the court by the Delhi Police from the Tihar jail.
Sahil, son of Ehsaan’s second wife, was present in the court with two accomplices of his own, and the trio allegedly shot Shahnawaz while he was signing a document. Jabbar escaped, but two others were injured. Eighteen police personnel were suspended after the incident.
‘Security’ just in name
The CJM court stands just about half a kilometre from the main gate of the district court complex, and police personnel are equipped with metal detectors and baggage scanners. But even then, almost anyone can enter the court without being scanned.
When ThePrint visited the complex in the aftermath of the incident, only about four or five police personnel were posted at the main gate. There seemed to be no restrictions on four-wheelers and motorcycles entering the court complex. Only people walking in were being frisked, and that too for the sake of formality.
When this reporter questioned some lawyers and policemen about this, the security was suddenly stepped up and the metal detector began to be used. But the baggage scanner still sat unused.
A policeman who was an eyewitness to Tuesday’s incident said on the condition of anonymity: “This security situation here is always like this. But in my 10-year career, this is the first time a shot has been fired in the CJM court.”
On the day ThePrint visited the court complex, CJM Yogesh Kumar was on leave. But the fear among lawyers was palpable, and bar association secretary Navdeep Singh said they’ve taken the initiative to issue passes to lawyers, on the basis of which they’ll be given entry.
“We have also appealed to the advocates to cooperate with the police investigation,” Singh said.
The Allahabad High Court has taken suo motu cognisance of the Bijnor incident, with a two-judge special bench of Justice Sudhir Agarwal and Justice Suneet Kumar hearing the matter. The bench took the state government to task, saying if it doesn’t have a security-related scheme, the central government will be contacted for it.
‘Same situation everywhere’ at lower courts
Satya Prakash Chauhan, former president of the Bijnor bar association, said: “You can see what the situation is here. The security situation here is no different to any court below the high court anywhere in the country. If the three men had come out guns blazing from the courtroom, you can imagine what it would’ve been like in this congested area.”
Advocate Meem Ahmed, who has been practising at the court for the last 18 years, added: “The incident felt like another country had attacked. Plaintiffs are scared of coming to the court now.”
Ahmed said plaintiffs are demanding more security at the court, saying if 20 bullets can be fires in the CJM’s court, how secure will they be?
According to a report in Amar Ujala, the Allahabad High Court said there have been many such instances at district courts in the last decade, such as in Muzaffarnagar and Agra.