Delhi High Court has said the justice delivery system has come under trial in the eyes of the public with accused in criminal cases increasingly subverting proceedings by killing, threatening or buying over witnesses.
“The existence of the state is dependent upon a good, effective and efficient criminal justice delivery system, for if the same fails, the citizens would settle their disputes in private and the rule of law would cease to exist. Lawlessness would prevail and the state shall perish,” said a bench headed by Justice Pradeep Nandrajog.
The court said so while sentencing one Mani Gopal, a professional contract killer, to 20 years’ imprisonment for killing an eunuch, a murder witness, inside the Tis Hazari court premises. The incident took place in 2003 when Neelam, the eunuch, was going to a courtroom to depose in the case.
The court held that the crime committed by Gopal was more than a “murder of an ordinary category” as it had an aggravating element of polluting the stream of justice. Thus the court, while handing down the sentence, specifically mentioned Gopal shall not be considered for remission till he undergoes an actual sentence of 20 years.
Normally, life convicts are considered for remission after they complete 14 years in jail.
“By killing the witness, the eyes and ears of a court are under attack. The stream of justice gets polluted,” Justice Nandrajog said.
There was, however, some relief for Gopal. A trial court had in June sentenced him to death.
Geeta Hazi, a resident of Rajouri Garden, had allegedly hired Gopal to eliminate Neelam as there was a dispute between them over control of areas for collection of donations and gifts on auspicious occasions.
Gopal had fired three shots at Neelam, killing her on the spot. The police arrested Gopal instantly and seized the weapon.
Hazi had alleged another killer in 2002 to eliminate Neelam. But instead of killing Neelam, the killer murdered another eunuch. However, the court had acquitted the contract killer in a separate trial for want of evidence.