Stunning footage captured the moment after two gangs went head to head at a courtroom in India, resulting in three deaths and raising questions about security.
In the video, police can be seen shooting into a courtroom where Jitender Maan also known as “Gogi”, one of India’s most notorious gangsters, was at a court hearing in India’s capital, Delhi. Minutes earlier, two men who claimed to be lawyers reportedly appeared in the courtroom and suddenly whipped out guns and opened fire, killing Maan.
Police forces then started shooting – the moment captured on video – and gunned down and killed the attackers while a lawyer was injured in the crossfire. The video of the horrific shootout that took place in broad daylight went viral on social media.
Police say the men pretending to be lawyers, identified as Rahul Tyagi and Jagdeep Jagga, were actually members of a rival gang run by Maan’s jailed nemesis Tillu Tajpuriya, who had been in police custody since 2016.
Maan and Tajpuriya were the gang leaders of two of Delhi’s most dangerous extortion and contract killing rackets. The rivalry between the pair, who were formerly childhood friends, began around 2010, after they supported opposing sides in a college election. While Tajpuriya was jailed in 2016, police arrested Maan just last year, after an associate of his posted a photo of his Starbucks coffee order with his name on Facebook.
Maan had 19 cases lodged against him, including extortion, murder and kidnapping. Most notably, police held him responsible for the murder of Indian singer Harshita Dahiya.
The shootout in a criminal court prompted outrage across India, with many lawyers and activists believing it highlights a lapse in security. It is still unclear how the two men pretending to be lawyers bypassed security and entered the courtroom.
Vishal Tiwari, a lawyer with India’s Supreme Court, told VICE World News that the incident highlighted the risks of in-person court hearings particularly with weak security. In the aftermath of the shootout, Tiwari filed a petition to the Supreme Court asking for hearings of hardened criminals and gangsters to take place via video conferencing.
“The two assailants were already sitting in court and dressed as lawyers,” he said. He added that actual lawyers who attend court hearings are also put in harm’s way.
“Especially when it comes to such gangs which have enmity, even the lawyers in the court are in danger,” he said. “Lawyers often act as whistleblowers so they are easy targets, especially when they are fighting cases against gangsters.”
This wasn’t the first instance of gang warfare spilling over into an Indian court. In 2011, a gangster named Vinod Rajput shot his rival while he was being taken back to jail from his court hearing. Similarly, in 1996, a gang war between Mukhtar Malik and Munne Painter resulted in two deaths during a court hearing. In March this year, two attackers shot an advocate in court in the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh.
In India, organised crime networks often operate with former gang members becoming rivals. Though there is no proper data on the number of such gangs in the country, police sources say that many of them continue to operate even after their leaders or members are arrested.
They also allegedly are support by some police officials. Many, such as notorious gangster Vikas Dubey, get killed in police “encounters” before they can go to trial. India’s National Human Rights Commission registered 1,782 cases of fake police encounters between 2000 to 2017.
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