Geeta and Sanjay Chopra kidnapping case
|Date||26 August 1978|
|Location||New Delhi, Delhi, India|
|Outcome||Deaths of Sanjay and Geeta Chopra|
|Convictions||Murder, common intention, kidnapping, kidnapping with unlawful confinement, kidnapping a woman with intention of sexual intercourse, and kidnapping with intention to cause hurt|
|Sentence||Convicts hanged at Tihar Jail, New Delhi on 31 January 1982|
The Geeta and Sanjay Chopra kidnapping case (also known as the Ranga-Billa case) was a kidnapping and murder crime in New Delhi in 1978. It involved the kidnapping and the subsequent murder of siblings, Geeta and Sanjay, by Kuljeet Singh (alias Ranga Khus) and Jasbir Singh (alias Billa). The children were kidnapped for ransom but, on learning their father was a naval officer, both were killed. Geeta was allegedly raped before being murdered, but forensic evidence could not confirm it. The kidnappers had initially admitted to raping her but later retracted the statement. The two kidnappers were convicted and sentenced to death. The execution was carried out in 1982.
- 1 Kidnapping
- 2 Investigation and media attention
- 3 Arrest and interrogation
- 4 Trial
- 5 Appeals
- 6 Death row interviews and execution
- 7 Aftermath
- 8 See also
- 9 References
- 10 Further reading
Geeta Chopra was a 16½-year-old 2nd year student in the Jesus and Mary College, New Delhi. Her brother, Sanjay, was 14-year-old student in the 10th standard of the Modern School. Their father, Madan Mohan Chopra, was a Captain in the Indian Navy. They lived in the Officer's Enclave in Dhaula Kuan.
On Saturday 26 August 1978, Geeta and Sanjay were supposed to participate in a radio programme called the Yuva Vani on All India Radio. They were to reach the All India Radio office on the Sansad Marg by 7 pm. Their father was supposed to pick them up outside the All India Radio after programme at 9 pm.
The siblings left their house at 6:15 pm. A man Kula Nand saw them at the roundabout at Dhaula Kuan. A man named M. S. Nanda gave the children a lift from Dhaula Kuan to Gole Dak Khana as it was drizzling. At 6:30 pm, one Bhagwan Dass had noticed a mustard colour Fiat car, while travelling from Gurudwara Bangla Sahib towards North Avenue, near the yoga ashram at Gole Dak Khana. He heard noises coming from the car, so he stopped his scooter and approached. He saw a girl pulling the hair of the driver and a boy fighting the passenger by the driver. Dass could not stop the car and it sped away towards Willingdon Hospital. Several other people had tried to stop the car. One man named Babu Lal, dropped his bicycle and tried to grab the door handle of the car but failed. Dass reported this to the police. At 6:45 pm, he called the police control room and told them number of the car as HRK 8930, but it was noted by the operator as MRK 8930. Dass also reported that the girl was shouting for help.
Inderjeet Singh, a junior engineer in the Delhi Development Authority returning home from work on his scooter, saw the car on Baba Kharak Singh Marg near the casualty block of the Willingdon Hospital. He noticed a girl and a boy sitting in the rear struggling with the driver and another man. He drove up and lined up with the running car. The boy showed his bleeding shoulder to Inderjeet Singh and waved his hands at him pleading for help. Inderjeet followed the car onto Shankar road. But he lost car when it jumped a red light at a traffic crossing at 6:45 pm. Inderjeet noted the correct number of the car and reported it to the Rajendra Nagar, Delhi. The police were slow in their reaction as they considered it a cognisable offence and that it was outside their jurisdiction as they could not proceed without taking permission from the Meerut High Court.
At 8 pm, their parents tuned in the radio to listen to their programme but another girl had been given the slot. The parents assumed that they had tuned to the wrong station or the programme was cancelled. Their father took his scooter from home at 8:45 pm to reach the radio office. He did not find his children at the appointed place. On being asked, he was told at the office, the children did not arrive. The father called home to ask if the children had reached home; their mother replied in negative. Their father returned home and called his relatives and friends to ask if the children were with them.
At 10:15 pm, the kidnappers had gone to the Willingdon Hospital in a car with the number DHI 280, as one of them, Billa, had acquired a cut injury on his head. The hospital had taken a skiagraph of his skull. One of them left a fingerprint on the skiagraph. On being asked, they gave the doctors false names and said they were hurt by some thieves. The constable on duty at the hospital, Ranbir Singh, took their statement in which they said they were attacked near Kali mandir on Bangla Sahib road, their watch was stolen, and the injury was from an iron rod. Ranbir Singh informed the Mandir Marg police station. At 10:50 pm, two policemen dispatched from the Mandir Marg station to further question them arrived at the hospital.
At 11:10 pm, the two decided to leave against doctor's advice. The two policemen, Sub-Inspector Ram Chander and Constable Harish Ram, asked them to accompany them to the spot where they were supposedly robbed. They took them to the spot in their car. Chander failed to find signs of struggle. They asked the duo to take them back to the station. At 1:45 am, they left the station, but they were asked to report again in the morning. When they did not, Chander went to their addresses but found them to be false. Chander inquired with the Regional Transport Office and found the vehicle number belonged to a scooter.
Investigation and media attention
The police control room forwarded the report from Dass to Mandir Marg police station. The report was given to sub-inspector Om Prakash at 7:05 pm. He went to the Gole Dak Khana to search for witnesses but could not find any. He returned to the station at 9:55 pm. Inderjeet's report had invoked no response. At 10:15 pm, the father called the police and gave them the descriptions of the children. The father search possible places where the children might have gone including the Willingdon Hospital and returned home at 11:30 pm.
The bodies were discovered by a cowherd, Dhani Ram, grazing his cows in Delhi Ridge on 28 August 1978, at 6 pm. The cowherd reported the bodies to a patrolling constable, Rohtas Singh, at 12:00 am. Sub-inspector Hari Chand was sent to the site. The parents were called to the site the identify the bodies. They identified them as their children.
The autopsy was conducted by the police surgeon, Bharat Singh, on 29 August. He found the bodies to be in an advance stage of decomposition. He could not establish sexual assault of the girl due to the decomposition. He found multiple stab wounds and a broken jaw on the girl. He confirmed multiple stab wounds on the boy.
The father decided to go the media. Some newspaper carried photographs. On seeing such a newspaper, M. S. Nanda came and gave his statement. The police in course of their suspected the duo to be involved. They released the photos to the press and reward was announced. The Mumbai Police was informed.
On 31 August, a car matching the kidnapping vehicle was found in Majlis Park with the number, DHD 7034. A car had been reported missing of the same make, but number DEA 1221, so the police called the owner Ashok Sharma. The car had been stolen from outside the Ashoka Hotel within six weeks of its purchase. Sharma was able to open the car with his keys. The stereo and speakers were missing. The car's white grille had been replaced with black one. Two witness who lived in the area later said they seen a man driving the car and he had asked them for directions.
The car was examined by investigators from the Central Forensic Science Laboratory. Several fingerprints were obtained from the car. A cigarette butt and hair samples were found and taken. Bloodstains were discovered. Plates with the numbers DEA 1221, HRF 5411, and HRK 8930 were found in the car. In the lab, it was later found that one of the plate originally had the number DHI 280 but it had been painted over. Similarly another number DHD 3548 was found. Some soil samples taken from the floor mat matched the soil samples from the site where the bodies were found.
The story got much media attention in India. Prime Minister Morarji Desai took personal interest in the case. The Janata Party which was in power in 1978 Delhi was criticised for their handling for the case. They lost the subsequent election.
Arrest and interrogation
The kidnappers were arrested on a train a few weeks later on 8 September 1978. On that day, the two kidnappers boarded the Kalka Mail when it had slowed near the Yamuna river bridge near Agra. The compartment they entered was reserved for military personnel, so they were asked to show their identity cards. They started a scuffle with the army-men and were suppressed. Lance Naik A. V. Shetty recognised them from a newspaper picture. On 9 September 1978, they were handed over to Inspector V. P. Gupta, at the New Delhi railway station. They were held in separate non-adjoining cells.
On searching, their bags the police found a kirpan. Their clothes were found with bloodstains. The doctor examining them found bruises on their arms and bodies, some of which were recent from the scuffle. The doctor found the sutures on Billa's head and estimated that to be 15 days old. A wound on Ranga's forearm was found to be 15 days old. Fingerprints, saliva, blood and hair samples were taken on 12 September. On 13 September, on Billa's directions they were driven separately to Agra, where the police recovered a sword/large kirpan from a rented room in Sita Nagar, Agra where they were staying.
On 22 September, Ranga made a voluntary confession which was recorded by a metropolitan magistrate, but the statement was later retracted by him on 20 November. On 19 October, Billa gave a similar confession, but later retracted it on 27 October. The confession were later to held to be independent as they had been kept in non-adjoining cells.
The hair found in the car and on the body of the boy matched that of Ranga. His fingerprint were found in the car. The bloodstains on his shirt belonged to blood group AB, which was a match with the siblings. Billa's hair was found on the body of the girl, and blood matching his blood group A was found in the car. Blood of group AB was found on his clothes. The signature at the Willingdon Hospital matched that of Billa. The skiagrams of the skulls matched.
Defence and alibi
They pleaded not guilty.
Billa claimed that he was in Bombay from 25 August to 1 September. He said he had acquired the head wound while trying to steal a car in Agripada, Bombay. Billa claimed he was forced to make a false confession. He said he was wanted by the Bombay police for false cases, so he had fled to Delhi with Ranga. They had come to Delhi on 15 August. On 18 August, they went to Panipat where Ranga's sister lived. On 25 August, left for Bombay. On 28, he got his head wound. On 31 August, he left for Delhi, where he was informed by Ranga that they were wanted for the murders. They then tried to hide out in Delhi. They were trying to escape to Madras via Delhi when they were caught by the army-men. He claimed to have been tortured by the police to make the confession. Ranga said that the kirpan was planted on him and that when his clothes were taken from him they had no bloodstains. They also produced witnesses to establish Billa's alibi.
Two doctors from the Willingdon Hospital who examined Billa on the night of 26 August could not positively identify him. The radiographer opined that the original skiagraph of that man matched with the recent skiagraph of Billa's. Sub-inspector Chander could positively identify the two. Sohan Lal, a landlord in Majlis Park, identified and said that they had rented a room from him on 24 August and stayed there till 31 August. He said that he had seen a bandage on Billa's head on 27 August. Another witness, Parkash, the proprietor of hotel in Fatehpur said that he had given the two a room from 16 August to 23 August. Anil Kumar Gupta, who worked in a guest house near Gali Telian in Delhi, said he had given them a room from 31 August to 2 September. Susheel Kumar, a parking attendant, had charged them for parking at Buddha Jayanti Park. He had noticed a boy and girl in the rear. Avdesh Singh Sharma, a physician from Agra, said he had removed Billa's stitches on 4 September, but Billa had left without paying him.
Verdict and sentence
It was established by the court that the duo had come to Delhi to escape the Bombay police. They arrived in Delhi on 16 August. They lived in various places under false names. They had two ceremonial kirpans, one small and a large, and gotten them sharpened elsewhere. Billa was proficient in stealing cars and had gotten fake number plates painted. He had stolen a Fiat from outside the Ashoka Hotel. They rented a room in Majlis Park, and paid for two months in advance. They picked the children sometime between 6:30 and 6:40 pm. The boy received a wound on his shoulder. At 7:30 pm, the car was parked near the Buddha Jayanti Park. Ranga bought two ice cream and three Campa Colas. The boy's autopsy established that he had eaten milk product before death. At 9:30 pm, the children were murdered in the woods near the Upper Ridge Road, Delhi. The girl's body was found with her bra and panties missing. On 30 August, Ranga abandoned the car in Majlis Park, a few streets away from where they were living. On 31 August, after the police found the car, the duo left even though they had paid two months in advance.
Events as established from confessions
Although, the confessions were considered in the sentencing, they were noted to have certain relevant details. According to Ranga's retracted statement, Ranga was initially a truck driver and later a taxi driver. He was introduced to Billa by one Sham Singh in Bombay. The two had kidnapped a kid in Bombay using Ranga's taxi.
Ranga had later released the kid after keeping him at his house for some time. Sham told him Billa was a well-known criminal who had killed two Arab men. Soon afterwards, Sham was arrested. The duo feared that Sham would reveal their ties to the police. They fled to Surat in the car, with another person. There they left the car and took a bus to Ahmedabad. They then took a train to Delhi. On 17 August, they stole a car but abandoned it because it was not in good condition. On 18 August, Ranga went to Panipat to meet his sister for Raksha Bandhan. On 19 August, they stole another car and changed its plates but abandoned it after finding it had bad acceleration. On the day, stole the car used in the crime from Ashoka Hotel and changed its plates. On 23 August, Billa threatened to kill Jugal and another person Kewal. On 24 August, they rented the house in Majlis Park. They decided that they would kidnap a couple the next day, then force them to take them to their house and rob it, but they found no victims while roaming in their car.
On 26 August, after roaming all day, they found the siblings and thought them to be from a rich family. They offered them a lift and children accepted. The children were talking in English. Billa had already loosened the inner door handles; he then pulled them out. The children began quarreling with Billa, who then tried to frighten them with the small kirpan. The boy tried to snatch the kirpan but was injured. The victims in the struggle managed to stall the car. At one point, Ranga saw a Sikh man following them. He suggested dropping the kids off and fleeing. Billa refused.
They then parked the car in Buddha Jayanti Park. The boy asked for water and was offered cola. He refused but accepted the ice cream on the girl's suggestion. The boy was bought another ice cream. They changed the car number to DHI 280. The children were asked about their parents. They replied their father was a naval officer. Ranga suggested the kids should be left off, as the father probably did not have much money and might try to fight them. Billa told the children that the girl would be used in a robbery in which she would stop a jeweler's car, coming from Palam airport, asking for a lift. After that they would be let go. They drove onto an untarred road and then took the boy about 100 yards away from the vehicle. Ranga was forced by Billa to attack the boy with longer kirpan, about 3 feet long. After one blow Ranga was unable to continue. Billa snatched the kirpan and repeatedly struck the boy. The boy died.
While Ranga cleaned the blade, Billa raped the girl. Then Ranga was asked to raped the girl by Billa, which he complied with. When the girl was being raped again, she picked the kirpan and struck Billa's head. The girl ran toward the road, but Ranga caught her. They made her dress up and told her they were taking her back to her brother nearby. While she was walking ahead, Billa attacked her from behind and killed her. They washed the car to remove most of the blood. On 28 August, Billa left for Bombay by train. On 30 August, Ranga found that some personnel of Bombay police were in Delhi. He changed plates and parked the car a few lanes away from his rented place. On 31 August, he saw the police had found the car. Billa returned the same day. They left for Agra on 31 August.
Billa's version of the events varied slightly. According to him, they had given the boy Mandrax tablets to dull his pain from the cuts he received in the scuffle. Billa claimed that the rape of the girl was Ranga's idea. They drove to a deserted place. Ranga took the boy away and Billa raped the girl. Ranga returned alone and raped her. The girl asked about her brother and got suspicious. She attacked Billa with the sword. Ranga snatched the sword away and killed her. Ranga then told Billa he had killed the boy. They then dumped the girl in the bushes and drove away.
Kuljeet Singh (alias Ranga Kush) and Jasbir Singh (alias Billa) were convicted and sentenced to death under Section 302 (murder) of the Indian Penal Code, read with Section 34 (common intention), by an additional sessions judge in Delhi. They were also convicted for crimes under Section 363 (kidnapping), 365 (kidnapping with unlawful confinement), 366 (kidnapping a woman with intention of sexual intercourse) and 367 (kidnapping with intention to cause hurt), read with Section 34.
The convicted challenged the death sentence verdict in the Delhi High Court. The High Court upheld the judgement on 16 November 1979. The convicts then petition under Article 136 in the Supreme Court of India, which was turned down. They then petitioned the president of India to use the clemency powers vested in him under Article 72 of the Constitution. The president turned down the petition without citing reason. They then petitioned the Supreme Court again arguing that the president should use his clemency powers fairly.
Death row interviews and execution
Following the judgement, some journalists petitioned the Tihar jail that they be allowed to interview the death row convicts. The jail authorities rejected the petition on the grounds that their Jail Manual allowed interviews only with relatives, friends and legal advisers. Journalist Prabha Dutt decided to challenge the rejection of interview requests in court.
On 7 November 1981, the Supreme Court of India decided that the convicts should allowed to be interviewed by some journalists, if they were willing. The journalists were granted permission to interview them together, for an hour, and to submit to search before entering the prison. The judgement is considered a landmark in Indian law.
On 30 January 1982, five reporters — among them Prabha Dutt of Hindustan Times, Prakash Patra of The National Herald, and Usha Rai of The Times of India — were allowed to conduct the interview. The convict interviewed was Jasbir Singh alias Billa, who insisted that he was innocent. Ranga refused to be interviewed.
The Kirti Chakra was awarded to the children on 5 April 1981. In 1978, the Indian Council for Child Welfare instituted two bravery awards for children under the age of 16, the Sanjay Chopra Award and the Geeta Chopra Award, given each year along with the National Bravery Award.
- Adnan Patrawala murder case, a 2007 kidnapping and murder case in Mumbai
- 2012 Delhi rape case, a 2012 case that also got wide media attention
- "Ranga-Billa redux: How rapists were sent to gallows".
- State v. Jasbir Singh a. Billa and Kuljeet Singh a. Ranga (Delhi High Court 16 November 1979). Text
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- Prabha Dutt v. Union of India (Supreme Court of India 7 November 1981) (“We therefore direct that the Superintendent of the Tihar Jail shall allow the aforesaid persons, namely the representatives of the Hindustan Times, the Times of India, India Today, the Press Trust of India and the United News of India to interview the aforesaid two prisoners, namely, Billa and Ranga, today.”). Text
- Patra, Prakash (9 March 2015). "With Billa, hours before the hanging". The Telegraph (India). Retrieved 10 March 2015.
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