Mumbai: Giving the benefit of doubt, the Bombay High Court has acquitted four persons who had robbed two persons of their belongings near Vashi Railway Station at knife point and fatally injured one of them.
All the four were acquitted of the charges of murder (section 302 IPC), robbery or dacoity (section 397 IPC) and voluntarily causing hurt (section 394 IPC) as the court ruled that the evidence adduced by the prosecution did not link them to the crime.
Accordingly, justices VK Tahilramani and Mridula Bhatkar quashed and set aside a lower court order sentencing them to life imprisonment for murder of a person and seven years` Rigorous imprisonment separately on two more charges viz robbery and causing hurt.
The four convicts who were acquitted by the High Court were Manoj Avale, Anwar Shaikh, Anand Behra and Ajay Das.
On November 24, 2005, two friends Vijay and Vipul were returning home. At Vashi Railway Station subway, they were confronted by four persons who at knife point asked them to give their belongings. Vijay gave them Rs 3,000 and a Rs 50 note, while Vipul started running away.
Vipul was captured by them and fatally assaulted. He was taken to hospital and declared dead. The four robbers ran away. Vijay lodged an FIR, following which investigation commenced.
Prosecution examined six witnesses in the case. One was Vijay, friend of the deceased, who had witnessed the murder. The other was pancha witness in respect of shirt and knife recovered at the instance of accused Manoj.
The third witness was a lady police officer Anagha Kukeri, who had sent the seized articles for forensic analysis while the fourth was Dr Jain who had conducted post mortem of Vipul`s body. The fifth witness was PI Bamble who had prepared inquest panchnama and took charge of clothes of the deceased. The sixth witness was investigating officer Dubal.
"It is pertinent to note that Vijay was the sole eye witness to the incident. However, he was not able to identify any of the four accused in this case," the judges noted.
In view of the fact that Vijay did not identify any of the four accused, the prosecution relied on the evidence of recovery of articles at the instance of the accused.
As far as accused Manoj is concerned, the prosecution
relied on the evidence of panch witness More and on the evidence of the Investigating officer, PI Dubal.
On December 2, 2005, Manoj told police in presence of panch witness More that he had hidden weapons and clothes at a place. He then led police to the spot and showed a knife and blood stained shirt which were kept under a stone.
Although witness More identified the shirt, he was not able to identify the knife before the court. According to the prosecution, these two articles i.e. shirt and knife were sent to chemical analyst. As per the CA report, blood of `B` group was found on the shirt and knife.
The prosecutor said the clothes of the deceased were stained with blood of `B` group. She submitted that the shirt of accused Manoj was found stained with blood of `B` group and this showed that the accused was involved in this case.
It is also pertinent to note that according to police officer Dubal, a knife was recovered at the instance of accused Manoj, Anwar and Anand. However, three knives were seized in this incident. Evidence pointed out that one of the knives shown to have been seized in connection with this crime was seized from the spot itself.
"There are only three knives recovered in this case. If this is so, it is not known which knife was seized from the spot itself and thus it brings into doubt the recovery of knife shown at the instance of the three accused," the bench said.
"Another reason why we are not inclined to rely on the evidence of panch witness More is that the Investigating officer Dubal has admitted that this witness was called thrice on three different dates to act as a panch. This clearly shows that this witness is a habitual panch and under the thumb of police. Hence, we are not inclined to place any reliance on the evidence of this panch", the judges noted.
Another disturbing aspect in this case is that after the recovery was effected, police did not take any care to seal the knife and shirt immediately after the seizure. Neither More nor Dubal have deposed that the knife and shirt were immediately sealed after seizure, the judges observed.