Shootout at Sagar Ratna: Police notify court no case against criminal a week before gunning him down
A week before its men gunned down Manoj Vashisht in a restaurant filled with weekend diners, the Delhi Police’s special cell told a city court he was not under investigation and that there was no case against him.
Saturday night’s accident has led to assertion of a staged killing and produced a probe by a special investigation team (SIT). On Tuesday, all nine personnel involved in the operation were transferred “to ensure a fair probe”, raising questions of why this was necessary since the SIT was not connected to the special cell.
Vashisht – who had seven cases of cheating against his name, none of them under the special cell – had filed for anticipatory bail on May 5, according to a document accessed by HT. In his plea, he said he was being harassed by special cell officers, and that seven of them had threatened to arrest him in Dhaula Kuan on April 29.
The court hearing the bail plea sought a report from the cops, based on which it disposed of Vashisht’s petition. The court order read: “As per the report from the special cell, neither any FIR has been registered nor has any complaint been received against him.”
The policemen are also facing allegations of extortion. Vashisht’s wife Priyanka told HT her husband had paid Rs 60,000 to the officers on April 29.
However, this charge was not mentioned in Vashisht’s complaint to the court. The SIT will record Priyanka’s statement, sources said.
Priyanka has maintained that the cheating cases were not valid reason for the police to kill her husband in an encounter.
Delhi Police commissioner BS Bassi has ordered a vigilance inquiry against the nine policemen present at the restaurant where Vashisht was killed. “I met the police commissioner and demanded that the officials be transferred as they might influence the probe. The commissioner was very cooperative and assured that a fair investigation will be carried out,” Priyanka said.
The special cell, which deals with matters related to terrorism and internal security, has defended its officers’ actions, saying they acted in self-defence after Vashisht fired the first shot when they went to arrest him at the Sagar Ratna restaurant in central Delhi’s Rajender Nagar.
The case gets murkier with the SIT looking into whether Vashisht’s phone was under surveillance. The 33-year-old used two phones, one of which was being tapped, according to sources. The special cell had received the sanction to intercept his phone a month ago, they said.
Authorisation for phone taps requires strict screening and is given only in cases where there is a perceived threat to internal security. Vashisht was not involved in any terrible crimes or terror activities.
“The final signatures that are needed to seek permission to tap phones are of the commissioner and the special cell commissioner, but the truth is that they are usually unaware of the person, whose phones are being tapped, trusting their junior colleagues. The permission cover letter only has a number, not the identity of the person. The SIT will probe why his phone was tapped,” said an officer.