On September 24, Jitender Gogi, one of Delhi’s most wanted gangsters, was by two men in a bustling courtroom in the Rohini district court complex.
Widely criticised for the security breach, the Delhi police installed 85 door frame metal detectors and 125 handheld detectors across district courts. The high court promised that an audit would be conducted to improve security.
But on December 9, a low-intensity blast took place at the Rohini district court. A DRDO scientist was later arrested in the case on charges of , who worked at the complex as an advocate.
But violence at the Rohini court complex isn’t new. In 2017, a 19-year-old smuggled a gun into the Rohini court complex and , merely months after a 22-year-old at the same premises.
When courts of law begin to resemble theatres of crime, what does that say about the state of the national capital?
When Newslaundry visited the Rohini district court on December 16, we anticipated ramped-up security and police presence. We did find it – court officials said 52 police personnel and 70 paramilitary officers had been deployed that day, with police checkpoints at every one km.
But there were lapses.
Metal detectors had been set up, but there were no female police personnel to carry out mandated security checks for female visitors. This reporter, for instance, entered the court complex without being frisked. When she asked the police manning the gate about checking, they said, “Police ma’am abhi nahin hain. Aap ja sakte hain.” Police ma’am is not here. You can go.
No lessons learned
The Rohini court complex has 70 courtrooms and sees around 10,000 to 11,000 visitors per day. It has six entry gates.
“This tightening of security is just a showpiece,” said Inder Singh Saroha, president of the Rohini Court Bar Association. “There is no second thought that there have been lapses in security by the police.”
The blast on December 9 was reported as being “low intensity” but Saroha pointed out that it wasn’t a “small one”.
“It was a detonator that simply exploded. It was initially thought to have been caused by a malfunctioning laptop but was actually triggered by an improvised explosive device,” he said. “The bomb was made with a battery, a timer, and a mixture of potassium chloride and nitrate. Thankfully, the IED was not adequately packed, otherwise half the court would have been blasted.”
Describing the incident as an “indication of a further threat”, Saroha theorised that the IED had been planted by someone disguised as a lawyer or a member of the police, since they don’t pass through security checks. Police personnel also frequently transport “case property” – which could include weapons and guns, and is deemed confidential – through the premises without checking.
“And if this baggage didn’t go through metal detection,” he added, “then it’s definite that there was a security lapse.”
Since 2010, the Bar Association has requested the installation of CCTVs inside the premises. This has not been done yet. There are CCTVs at the gates, while the ones in the corridors and chambers blocks have not been functional since 2006.
“At least after the Gogi incident, the administration should have installed CCTVs,” said Saroha. “They should have taken strict measures. However, nothing much has been done.”
This was seconded by Manjeet Mathur, the secretary of the Rohini Court Bar Association, who cited “easy access” to the courts as one reason for the rise in crime.
“Considering the past incidents, there should be around 300 CCTVs but we only have around 75,” Mathur told Newslaundry. “And in those 75, there is no clear vision, range is low, and the cameras are not high tech. There are no nitrogen cameras as well.”
On metal detectors, Mathur said the court complex requires at least 100 but has less than a quarter of this requirement. “Metal detectors and baggage detectors should be in place at all gates but only three gates have it,” he said, “hence giving an easy pass for criminals to access the court.”
Next, the court has a parking capacity for 600 vehicles but Mathur estimates that 1,500 vehicles enter the complex everyday.
“Because of this, security guards may let up in doing thorough security checks of vehicles,” he said, adding that there’s a need to “appropriately deploy security” outside all gates.
Lawyers also told Newslaundry that two or three vehicles are stolen “daily” in the area; or the vehicles’ batteries or vital components are removed.
Gang rivalries aplenty
At first glance, Rohini’s Sector 14 is peaceful, with broad avenues and a canopy of trees.
But lawyers at the Rohini district court shared stories of robberies and murders in broad daylight, also chain-snatching and car-jacking by people on motorbikes. The name “Neeraj Bawana” popped up several times – he ran a gang and headed the police’s most wanted list for years until his arrest in 2015 – and also the gang of one “Tillu”.
For instance, an investigation into Gogi’s murder revealed that Gogi’s longtime rival Sunil Mann alias Tillu Tajpuriya had plotted his death from inside Mandoli jail. One of the two people arrested was a close associate of Tajpuriya.
Lawyers also cited Rohini’s proximity to Uttar Pradesh and Haryana, permitting criminals and gangsters to “flee at will”.
Newslaundry contacted Pranav Tayal, Rohini’s deputy commissioner of police, to ask about crime and security lapses at the court complex. Tayal said he is not authorised to speak to the media and directed this reporter to reach out to Paver Mistri, senior police officer (special cell).
Mistri said, “How can I comment on that? I am investigating the case and I am not the jurisdictional police officer to comment.”
Update: Paver Mistri's designation has been corrected to senior police officer (special cell).
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