A son who took up law to see father’s killers behind bars

  • | Sunday | 3rd December, 2023

NOIDA: Akash Chauhan had a private job at hand, but he desperately wanted exemplary punishment for his fathers killers. So, he made up his mind – it was time for him to revisit the books.The elder son of Pale Ram – a social activist who was shot dead for leading a protest against illegal sand mining on the Yamuna banks – pursued a bachelors degree in lawso that he could fight his case in court.It took him 10 years, but a father-son duo were eventually handed the life term this Thursday.Pale Ram, who had filed several complaints against the sand mafia and moved a petition in the Allahabad high court, was sprayed with bullets when he was sleeping on a cot in the courtyard of his house in Noidas Raipur Khadar on July 31, 2013. By the time he was wheeled into a hospital, he had died.Akash filed a police complaint, naming Rajpal Chauhan and his three sons for the murder. Rajpal and one of his sons were handed life term, while the two others were acquitted for lack of evidence.After the 2013 murder, Pale Rams family had consulted KK Singh, a former district government counsel (criminal), and urged him to take up the case. But back then, there was tremendous threat from the sand mafia, he claimed.Pale Rams murder came within days of the suspension of SDM Durga Shakti Nagpal. There were allegations that Nagpal was suspended for her crackdown on the sand mafia.Akash used to work in a private company then. Since he wanted the strictest punishment for his fathers killers, I advised him to pursue law. He agreed and bagged a bachelors degree in law. He also got enrolled in the district court as a lawyer. He worked with me and fought the case due, which resulted in the conviction of the father-son duo, Singh said.The local mafia, Akash alleged, had grabbed a 250-acre gram sabha plot on the Yamuna floodplains and started mining sand without any permission. They would also use stone crushers.Since trucks carrying sand and stones plied all night, they damaged the nearby farmland and then Pale Ram decided to protest.My father filed several complaints with police and the district administration, but to no avail. So, he approached the HC in 2012. Thats when the sand mafia became more aggressive and started threatening us with dire consequences. On July 31, 2013, I was in my office when three men on a bike pumped bullets into him, he told TOI. Pale Ram took in six bullets in the head, chest and hand.The threats, however, did not stop with the murder as the family decided to pursue the case. On June 21, 2014, my brothers body was found near the railway tracks in Narela area of Delhi. Police did not investigate the case seriously and closed the matter. But we believe he, too, was killed by the sand mafia, Akash said.My father died for a social cause. We had no personal enmity with the mafia. But, we are happy now that two of them have been convicted, he added.The conviction will act as a deterrent against sand mining, said environmentalist Vikrant Tongad. This will instil a sense of fear among them. This judgment will also strengthen the voice of those working for the environment, he added.

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