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NOIDA: In the middle of an outbreak of police encounters across Uttar Pradesh — 22 in the past four days — a 25-year-old gym trainer who had stopped for a pizza at a roadside outlet in Noida on Saturday night was shot and critically injured by a sub-inspector after an argument.
The cop, Vijay Darshan, was arrested on Sunday and three others suspended. The victim, Jitendra Yadav, is battling for life in hospital.
Four eyewitnesses to the “unprovoked” attack — all returning with Jitendra from his cousin’s engagement — said the victim was bundled into the backseat of his Scorpio by Darshan, who pulled out his service revolver and fired at his throat in cold blood around 9.30pm. The witnesses said Darshan and another cop, Narendra, drove away in the Scorpio with a bleeding Jitendra.
They arrived with the victim 90 minutes later at Fortis hospital (Sector 62), barely 7km from the shooting scene.
Noida ‘encounter’ to get out-of-turn promotion?
Jitendra was admitted at Fortis in a critical condition. A doctor said the bullet got lodged in the youth’s backbone. “We have performed the surgery.
The patient is in ICU but his condition is critical,” the doctor told TOI on Sunday evening. For a police force that has openly stated its intention to fight crime through ‘encounters’, a line endorsed by the CM himself, the Noida shooting showed how the strategy could blow up in its face. It also confirmed the worst fears, of cops misusing it and treating it as a licence to settle scores.
One of the witnesses to Jitendra’s shooting, his friend Gautam Sardar, said Darshan had called someone on his cellphone immediately after firing the shot to say that an encounter had taken place, and remarked to his colleague, Narendra, that the “encounter” would earn him an “out-of-turn promotion”.
The SUV in which the victim, Jitendra Yadav (inset), was shot at.
Noida police denied receiving any message about an encounter on its wireless frequency from Darshan, a 30-year-old trainee sub-inspector who is from Mathura and has been in the city for just three months.
Officials said they got to know of the episode only when the four people who were with Jitendra — friends Gautam and Suneel Jat, uncle Kripal Yadav and Dharmendra — reported the shooting at Parthala police post.
Police also refused to term the shooting an encounter. At a press conference called on Sunday afternoon under mounting criticism and a huge protest in front of the hospital, Noida SSP Love Kumar said Jitendra’s brother Dharmendra, who was also present during the shooting, and Darshan were known to each other.
Though the SSP offered no other information, Jitendra’s family members they owned some shops, which they had rented out, in the local market and that cops had visited the shops in January to extort money from traders.
Dharmendra and Jitendra had confronted the cops and refused to pay, they claimed. But Dharmedra had not seen this coming — he claimed he had a “cordial” interaction with Darshan on January 26 when he gave him a lift to the Republic Day parade in Noida.
A case of attempt to murder and robbery (Jitendra’s bracelet and gold chain are missing) has been filed against Darshan, who was on Sunday sent to judicial custody. The three other cops — constables Sanjay Tamta and Pankaj Singh and Narendra, also a trainee SI — have been suspended and their role is being investigated. All the cops have been booked under the same charges.
The witnesses told police they had stopped for a pizza while on the way to drop Suneel and Gautam after attending Kripal’s daughter Mona’s engagement function. Jitendra was driving. A few minutes later, Darshan and the other cops drove up in a police Vitara Brezza.
They were apparently responding to a complaint from the neighbourhood that Jitendra and the others were playing loud music in the Scorpio. Darshan was in plain clothes. “They started thrashing us without reason.
Darshan forced Jitendra to leave the steering and take the back seat,” Dharmendra said. Darshan then took the driving seat while Narendra sat in the rear.
Jitendra protested, and that angered Darshan. “Darshan took out a revolver and thought for a moment. He then loaded it, turned back, and shot Jitendra from pointblank range,” said Gautam.
Suneel said he was in the back seat when Darshan shot Jitendra, and the cops had centrally locked the doors of the SUV to ensure no one escaped. He said he smashed a window pane to escape. At the press conference, Love Kumar said, “No wireless message was flashed about the encounter. Other police personnel informed us that sub-inspector Darshan had shot a person. We have seized his licenced pistol.”
Noida MLA Pankaj Singh, and MP and Union minister Mahesh Sharma also visited the hospital and said a fair probe would be carried out into the shooting.