New Delhi: Thirty-eight years ago, in 1982, two hardened criminals were hanged inside Tihar Jail in a case that was strikingly similar in brutality to the rape and murder of Nirbhaya.
Even decades after their execution, the notoriety of Ranga and Billa is cited to make a distinction.
In 1978, Ranga and Billa had kidnapped two siblings, who had hitched a ride with them in the heart of Delhi, for ransom. But when the criminals came to know that the brother-sister duo Geeta and Sanjay Chopra were the children of a naval officer, they panicked and killed them after torturing them. Geeta was raped before she was killed.
Kuljeet Singh alias Ranga Khus and Jasbir Singh alias Billa were awarded the death penalty and executed four years later.
In November last year, the counsel for Congress leader P Chidambaram mentioned the names of the criminals while seeking bail for his client from the Supreme Court in the INX Media money-laundering case.
Making a fervent plea for bail for Chidambaram, who was then in jail since August 21, 2019, the counsel and the senior Congress leader’s party colleague Kapil Sibal referred to the Delhi High Court verdict which said if the leader is granted bail then a wrong message would go to the nation.
“It has been said (in the HC verdict) that a wrong message would go to country if I (Chidambaram) am released on bail as if I am some kind of criminal like ‘Ranga’ and ‘Billa’, My Lord,” Sibal had told the bench on behalf of Chidambaram.
For Ranga and Billa’s hanging, Tihar hangmen Fakira and Kalu were summoned from Faridkot and Meerut Jails, respectively, according to the book ‘Black Warrant’ by former Tihar Jail law officer Sunil Gupta and journalist Sunetra Choudhury.
Before hanging, they were offered tea and asked whether they would like to leave their wills but they declined.
On January 31, 1982, the date of their execution, their faces were covered and a noose was put around their necks, according to the book.
The book says while Ranga met his end by shouting ‘Jo Bole So Nihaal, Sat Sri Akal!’, Billa cried.
Almost two hours after the lever was pulled by the hangmen and the criminals had collapsed into the well, the doctor who checked their bodies, found that Ranga had a pulse, according to the book.
And so, a guard was made to jump into the well beneath Ranga’s body and pull his legs, says Gupta in the book.
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