Mumbai: Disbelieving an eyewitness, the Bombay High Court has quashed and set aside life imprisonment imposed on four persons for killing a journalist by hitting a stone on his head, 12 years ago.
A bench observed that the eyewitness had acted as a panch witness of the body of the scribe. He did not inform police while acting as a panch that he was also an eye witness to the killing in Ulhasnagar town of Thane district.
"His belated disclosure about the incident to the police on the next day (about witnessing murder) would affect his credibility as an eye witness," said a bench, headed by Justice PV Hardas and PN Deshmukh on September 25.
"We have also noted that the evidence of this eye witness Paresh is not of such quality as to impel the Court to implicitly rely on his testimony. The conduct and behaviour of Paresh is highly unnatural and, therefore, belies his claim at having witnessed the incident," observed the bench.
"Unfortunately, he is the sole eye witness as another eye witness, Dilip, did not support the prosecution and was declared hostile. Be that as it may, the evidence of Paresh does not inspire confidence of the Court and according to us, conviction of the appellants cannot be sustained on the basis of the testimony of Paresh," Judges further said.
The court ordered the release of convicts since they were in jail. Ramesh Bhatia, Naresh Prithiani, Ramesh Madhwani and Kumar Jaisinghani were given life sentence by a Kalyan court in November 2004.
On September 12, 2001, Paresh and his friend Raju, both reporters with a local daily, were travelling in an autorickshaw from Netaji Chowk to Nehru Chowk.
After getting down from the auto, Paresh went to nearby pan shop to seek change of a currency note. He saw some persons were assaulting Raju and one of them had hit him with a stone. Raju collapsed and was lying in a pool of blood.
He informed Raju`s brother who rushed to police station and lodged a complaint. At that time, Paresh did not inform police that he had witnessed the murder. Paresh acted as a witness of the panchnama of the body. On the next day, he informed police that he had witnessed the killing.