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Part 2

The Inside Story
RAMPUR: A court in Rampur, Uttar Pradesh, acquitted the main accused in a murder case and charged the investigating officer instead for a crime that was as tragic as it was diabolical. Zahida Tabassum's photographer husband, Shamshad Mirza, was murdered in 2001, and it took 13 years for her to prove that she wasn't the killer as charged by the IO, sub-inspector PD Ratnakar. The case culminated dramatically earlier this week with the court pressing charges against the investigating officer himself of Mirza's murder, destruction of evidence, and misusing his office to implicate Mirza's widow, Zahida.

The court did so on the basis of evidence so far and witnesses' testimony, particularly Mirza's daughter, Sayeeda Fatima, who told the court she had seen IO Ratnakar among a group of masked men who barged into their Civil Lines home on the night of December 12, 2001, when they killed her father.

Mirza's 20-year-old son, Kamaal Ahmed, who died in January 2002 allegedly due to injuries during interrogation by sub-inspector Ratnakar, had said in his police complaint that four people with their faces covered had entered the house past midnight with guns and an axe. Kamaal wrote in the complaint that the intruders threatened the family against making any noise, had an altercation with his father, and then hacked Mirza to death with the chopper.
But Ratnakar arrested Zahida and Kamaal claiming Mirza was killed by them over a family dispute. But Mirza's daughter, Sayeeda Fatima's testimony proved crucial. She told the court Ratnakar had brought some lurid negatives to be developed into photographs to her father, who refused and but burnt the negatives. An angry Ratnakar and his cohorts then killed Mirza. She told the court she recognized Ratnakar after the wrap around his face fell; she also saw the IO's accomplice, Vishambar Das.

"All witnesses turned hostile and claimed the IO forced them to sign on blank pages," defence counsel (in State vs Zahida Tabassum) Devendra Kumar told TOI on Saturday. "The court found discrepancies. The IO could not give any satisfactory answer on why pages from the case diary were missing. Besides, there was no concrete reason given by the IO for the mother and son to kill Mirza. IO Ratnakar also claimed in his case diary that the two had poisoned Mirza before attacking him, but there was no medical report to substantiate this. Charges were framed against Ratnakar and Das. Few other senior police officers posted in Rampur can also be charged in this case," the defence counsel added.

Ratnakar later admitted to his chilling criminal history in court. "Many criminal cases have been filed against him. He was convicted in 2010 to seven years' imprisonment for a custodial death in Shahabad, and is now in Bijnor jail," said Vinod Sharma, Zahida's lawyer. "When people in custody asked for water, he would compel them to drink his urine," said Nazar Abbas Khan, an advocate, about Ratnakar.

Zahida, now over 60, lives in Delhi. Her former neighbour in Rampur, Umesh Dubey, also a witness, said, "She has found peace after 13 years. But she says her fight is incomplete and she will have Ratnakar proven guilty of the murder of her son."

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