His accomplices open fire outside court premises to create panic

In a daring act, a group of assailants freed Kailash Jakhar, one of the accused in the Bhanwari Devi murder case, from police custody outside the District and Sessions Court in Jodhpur on Thursday. They also tried to snatch away one of the main accused, Bishnaram Bishnoi, after opening fire in the air but police foiled them.

The cops arrested one Hanumanaram Vishnoi in connection with the incident and are questioning him to find out the whereabouts of the escaped prisoner and those who freed him. No one was seriously injured though one person was hit by a pellet apparently fired from a country-made pistol. The assailants also carried a sophisticated weapon which, onlookers said, looked more like an AK-47.

Jodhpur's Commissioner of Police Bhupendra Dak blamed the jail authorities for ignoring the advice given by the police for extra precautions such as hand-cuffing while taking out those arrested in the case. However, the jail authorities pointed out that hand-cuffing was possible only if the court allowed it.

The incident happened around 10.45 a.m. when both Jakhar and Bishnoi were being escorted out of the court by guards of the Jodhpur Central jail after presenting them in another case. The assailants reportedly more than a dozen, came in three vehicles — Bolero, Scorpio and Swift Desire — and started firing in the air to distract the police and scare away the litigants present.

While Jakhar managed to flee, Bishnaram could not as one of the constables held on to him. Bishnaram again tried to escape in one of the vehicles the assailants had brought but the police managed to pull out the key from it before he could start it.

The accused in the high profile Bhanwari case, investigated by the Central Bureau of Investigation, include the former Rajasthan Minister Mahipal Maderna and Congress MLA Malkhan Singh Bishnoi. Several cases, including those pertaining to land grabbing and narcotics smuggling are pending against the Kailash Jakhar-Bishnaram Bishnoi duo.

Meanwhile, Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot after a high level review meeting constituted a committee to examine the larger issues arising out of the development and suggest remedial measures. The meeting was attended by Minister of State for Home Virendra Beniwal and Chief Secretary C.K. Mathew.

The committee, headed by Additional Chief Secretary (Home) with the Director-General of Police and Director-General (Crime) as members and Additional Director-General (Crime) as member-secretary, has been asked to look into the procedure of taking under-trials to court and back. The committee will review the security of the courts and consider measures such as installation of closed-circuit cameras on the premises.

Alternative arrangements such as use of video conferencing between jails and the judiciary and setting up courts within the jail premises would be considered by the committee. The committee has been asked to submit its report in 30 days.