DRDO scientist held for Rohini court blast wanted to kill former neighbour

Bharat Bhushan Kataria, a 47-year-old scientist working at the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), was arrested on Friday for triggering a bomb in a Rohini court on December 9, Delhi Police said on Saturday.

Kataria wanted to kill his former neighbour Amit Vashisht, a lawyer with whom he was locked in “protracted legal battles” for nearly a decade, police said. The scientist planned the bombing with an improvised explosive device (IED) for nearly a month, they said.

Vashisht was in courtroom number 102 when Kataria kept a black laptop bag containing a bomb in a steel tiffin box behind the lawyer’s chair. He then triggered the bomb using a remote control. The two were scheduled to attend a hearing in that courtroom later in the day, police officers said.

· Vashisht suffered shock and minor injury to his leg and constable Rajeev (who goes by a single name), who was present in the court, hurt his left shoulder and foot. Since the improvised bomb was not properly assembled, the explosion took place only in the detonator, a 12 volt two-wheeler battery, police said.

“Serious damages could have happened had the explosion taken place in the charged explosive material. Some new iron screws and shrapnel were used in the IED,” Delhi police commissioner Rakesh Asthana told reporters on Saturday.

Kataria entered the Rohini court complex dressed as a lawyer, carrying two bags, one of which contained the bomb. A company’s logo on the bag and CCTV footage helped police identify the suspect. The lawyer’s attire and items used to assemble the IED were recovered from Kataria’s house, confirming his involvement in the incident, said police.

“Kataria’s protracted legal battles with the lawyer appears to the motive behind his crime. However, we are probing other aspects in the case as well. The investigating team has collected many incriminating materials related to the incident from Kataria’s house,” Asthana said.

Kataria has a degree in mechanical engineering from Delhi Technological University, formerly known as Delhi College of Engineering, and got a job in DRDO.

A DRDO spokesperson did not respond to requests for comment.

The low-intensity blast triggered panic and raised questions over security in the court complex, as the incident came just months after gangster Jitender Gogi was shot dead inside courtroom number 207.

Also read | In blast build-up, 11-yr-long tussle played out on streets, inside court

“Since it was the second incident in the same court, the investigation of the blast case was handed over to the special cell team,” the police chief said.

Kataria and Vashisth lived in the same building in north Delhi’s Ashok Vihar till about three years ago, according to deputy commissioner of police (special cell) Rajeev Ranjan Singh. Kataria lived on the third floor with his wife and two children, while the lawyer resided on the ground floor.

They were involved in legal disputes, mostly over petty matters such as water and parking, for over 10 years, and have filed over a dozen civil and criminal cases against each other.

Kataria moved out of the building due to the frequent quarrels and shifted to another house in the neighbourhood with his family, Singh said.

One such case against Kataria was listed for arguments on December 9 in courtroom 102. Vashisht was present in the courtroom for the hearing. Kataria entered the court campus at 9.33am, showed the CCTV footage. Around 10.15 am, he went inside the courtroom and searched for the lawyer.

After spotting Vashisht seated in the last row, Kataria placed the bag with the IED behind his chair. He left the room and triggered the bomb using the remote control. At 10.35am, Kataria walked out of the court complex from the Ring Road gate and went back home in his car, said Singh.

“Kataria was frustrated due to the legal battles, which he said were causing problems for him in his career, as well as prolonged mental harassment and monetary losses,” he said.

Vashisth was not available for comment. His cellphone was switched off and a text message sent to him received no response.