Undertrial was stabbed by fellow suspect in murder case

Tension prevailed for a short while on the Egmore Metropolitan Court premises on Thursday morning after a murder suspect attacked another suspect with a knife outside the fifth magistrate court here.

Egmore police sources said, the attack took place around 11.50 a.m. The victim, Saleem Babu (43) of MMDA Colony, Arumbakkam, is the prime suspect in the murder of a businessman, Rafeeq Raja, in Arumbakkam last April. He had come to the court for a hearing along with five other suspects in the case, including his sister Kadar Bebi, who were all out on bail.

The group, including third suspect Annadurai of Arumbakkam, attended the committal proceedings before a magistrate court. After the case was adjourned for the day, the suspects came out of the court hall. Saleem was standing under a tree opposite the court and was talking to his wife Jamila.

“Suddenly, Annadurai ran and attacked Saleem on his neck and hand with a knife that he was carrying. Saleem ran and hid in the court hall. Magistrate Uma Maheshwari was there,” said an investigating officer.

A visitor at the Egmore court said commotion ensued on the premises. “The police rushed towards the magistrate court hall where the doors were locked,” he said.

Saleem, who was profusely bleeding, was taken to the Rajiv Gandhi Government General Hospital where he is undergoing treatment. His condition is said to be stable. Senior police officials visited the spot and carried out a preliminary probe.

A few months ago, Moorthy, the second suspect in the murder case was murdered in Thoppur, Dharmapuri district. The other suspects, including Annadurai, believed that Saleem had tipped off the rival group which had murdered Moorthy. Annadurai suspected Saleem planned to turn approver in the case and had decided to kill him, the police said.

Annadurai fled immediately after the attack and an Egmore police team has launched a hunt for him.

Armed policemen were reinstated on and outside the court premises by Thursday afternoon.

Tighten security, demand advocates

Thursday’s attack, besides coming as a rude shock to advocates and the public alike, is a reminder of a similar occurrence in July 1996 on the same court premises.

“Security in magistrate courts is not foolproof. The authorities wake up only after any major incident. Even then, the security checks are not done on a continued basis. It is a matter of concern that an accused could enter the court premises with a weapon,” said an advocate.

The lack of absolute security came to the fore a couple of months ago when two accused cut their necks with blades near an Egmore court hall. President of Madras High Court Advocates’ Association G. Mohanakrishnan said, with the cooperation of advocates, there was a foolproof security system on the Madras High Court premises. “Such an arrangement should be extended to other court complexes too. The police should keep a watchful eye on visitors,” he said.

Commenting on the lack of adequate security measures in magistrate courts, president of Tamil Nadu Advocates Association S. Prabakaran said, in addition to police personnel, there was a need to install closed circuit television cameras.

There was no checking or frisking at the entrance to the Egmore court complex, advocates pointed out. A. Michael, president of Egmore Advocates Association, said, “The police are to blame for today’s incident. On several occasions, we have requested the police through the chief metropolitan magistrate to provide adequate security.”

He said advocates were ready to cooperate with the authorities in introducing security measures in courts.

P. Ravikumar, vice-president of the Association, said that in 2008, Rajnikanth, an advocate, was hacked to death by a gang on the Egmore court premises. The police then enhanced security in the court complex.