1978 Geeta and Sanjay Chopra Kidnapping and Murder case: The chilling story of Ranga and Billa’s sensational crime

sensational crime

Supreme Court: On 26.08.1978, Geeta and Sanjay, two teenagers aged 16 and 14, respectively, left from their home to participate in an All-India Radio program. The plan was simple. They would go to the All-India Radio office, participate in the program, their parents would tune into the Radio at 8:00 PM to hear them live and then their father would pick them up at 9:00 PM1.

But as fate would have it, the teenagers with bright futures ahead of them, neither reached the AIR office nor did they return home. How did their fate intertwine with two hardened criminals who committed their gruesome murder? Let’s delve deeper into their story.

On their way to the All-India Radio office, Geeta and Sanjay took lift in a Fiat car. Little did they know that they were not getting into a car but a deep-laid trap by Kuljeet Singh (alias Ranga) and Jasbir Singh (alias Billa). On the fateful day, Ranga and Billa were driving the Fiat car on the roads of Delhi with a fool proof plan to kidnap children, demand ransom, and kill the children if anything went wrong during the operation.

In this case the impediments were the fact that their father may not be able to pay a handsome ransom and the uncommon courage of the brave teenagers who fought back so fiercely that Billa had to go to the hospital for stitches afterwards.

Despite the attempt of two public-spirited persons to save the children, the police failed the children by noting down the wrong vehicle number in one instance and sleeping over the report for over an hour, in another. Meanwhile, the children were taken to a park where they were eventually killed at night. Their bodies were discovered by a cowherd in Delhi Ridge on 28 August 19782.

On Police’s failute to take action on time, the Delhi High Court observed that,

“The lives of the children could have been saved if the police had acted promptly. The non-cooperation by the public is a standing grievance of the police and public apathy is its routine excuse. The facts of the instant case clearly show that there is no dearth of public spirited persons.Had a general alarm been given by the police in time and the flying squad been alerted, the lives of the children could have been saved. The police did not take any action on the report lodged by Inderjit Singh an eye-witness on the plea that the crime had not been committed within their jurisdiction and the information was conveyed to the control room only after an hour and even then the control room did not take any action. The police should take public reports seriously and act promptly if they want public cooperation.”

The High Court, however, appreciated the “unusual efficiency” showed by the police in carrying out the investigations after recovery of the dead bodies and registration of the case.

Looking at the crime and at the criminals, the Delhi High Court concluded that Ranga and Billa should be awarded the death sentence and that “to award any other sentence will amount to a complete failure of justice”.

When the matter travelled to the Supreme Court, it observed that Ranga and Billa’s inhumanity defied all belief and description. Talking about Ranga and Billa’s “savage” plan, the Supreme Court observed,

“There was a planned motivation behind the crime though the accused had no personal motive to commit the murder of these two children. Any two children would have been good enough for them. The accused had loosened the handles of the doors of the car so that they should fall down when the children, after getting into the car, close the doors behind them. By this process it was ensured that the children would get into a trap like helpless mice. They got into the car but could not get out of it. In the boot of the car were kept formidable weapons which were ultimately used for committing the murder of the children. In addition, the accused carried sharp weapons with them which explains the injury caused to Sanjay in the car itself. The author of that injury was clearly Ranga since his hands were more free than those of Billa who was on the wheel. The injured children were taken to a park in order apparently to lull them into a false sense of security. The true purpose of doing so was to let the dusk fall so that the most dastardly act could be committed under the cover of darkness. So deep-laid was the strategy to which they adhered to the last without contrition of any kind.”

The 3-judge bench of YV Chandrachud, CJ and AP Sen and Baharul Islam, JJ, hence, imposed death sentence on Ranga and Billa after observing that the murder was planned and not a result of a sudden impulse.

“The survival of an orderly society demands the extinction of the life of persons like Ranga and Billa who are a menace to social order and security. They are professional murderers and deserve no sympathy even in terms of the evolving standards of decency of a maturing society.”

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 Award3. Geeta and Sanjay were posthumously awarded Kirti Chakra in 19814.

Ranga and Billa’s mercy petitions were rejected by the President, and they were hanged to death on 31.01.19825.

[Kuljeet Singh v. Union of India, (1981) 3 SCC 324, decided on 21.04.1981]

1. State v. Jasbir Singh, 1979 SCC OnLine Del 220

2. Supra

3. National Bravery Awards, Factly

4. Kirti Chakra Award, Times Content

5. Kuljeet Singh v. Lt.-Governor, (1982) 1 SCC 417

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