New Delhi: After spending 16 years in prison for the murder of his colleague in 1996, a ship`s helmsman was on Tuesday acquitted by the Supreme Court, which set aside his conviction and life sentence.
A bench of justices P Sathasivam and MY Eqbal set aside the judgement of the Delhi High Court affirming the conviction of the trial court and acquitted Majendran Langeswaran of murder charge saying that it cannot be sustained in law.
"The very fact that two blood-stained knives were found by the prosecution proves that the prosecution failed to give sufficient explanation as to who had assaulted the deceased by using another knife.
"The High Court has committed grave error in holding that in view of the findings arrived at by the trial court that offence was committed by using the knife, the presence of another knife with blood-stains will not demolish the case of the prosecution," the bench said.
The court allowed Langeswaran`s appeal against the High Court and trial court`s orders and directed that he be released forthwith if not required in any other case.
Langeswaran was held guilty by the trial court in August 2002 for murdering another helmsman L Shivaraman in December 1996, when their ship was sailing from South Africa to Japan via Singapore.
According to the CBI, on November 30, 1996, there was an altercation between Langeswaran and the victim and as accused had sustained some cut injuries on his hands after which he had reported the matter to the officials.
On December 1, 1996, when the ship was on high seas, the accused took leave from his duty on the ground that he was having pain in his hands and another helmsman was asked to do his duty, it said.
The accused and the victim were earlier staying in same cabin but after the altercation, Langeswaran was shifted to another cabin and in the afternoon, he allegedly approached an officer Kalyan Singh with a blood-stained knife and confessed that he had killed Shivaraman, the CBI said.
Other crew members and officials of Shipping Corporation of India were also informed about the incident.
The apex court, in its judgement acquitting Langeswaran, said the knife was not shown to the doctor who had conducted post mortem of the victim to find out whether the injuries could have been caused by that weapon.
"Surprisingly, another knife alleged to have been recovered from the boiler suit was also not shown to the doctor to ascertain whether it was also used in the commission of the offence," the bench said.
It also noted that after the alleged incident, the master of the ship had got the crime scene cleaned like a vision and nothing was kept intact in and around the cabin where the offence was committed.
"Even the Investigating Officer failed to inspect the cabin. No site plan was prepared by the Investigating Officer. Before the arrival of the Investigating Agency officials, the place of occurrence including cabin was completely washed and cleaned in such a way as if nothing had happened in the cabin and the place around it," it said.
The bench said neither the chain of events was complete nor the circumstances lead to the conclusion that the offence was committed by Langeswaran and none else.