Having twice got it wrong, the Supreme Court on Wednesday finally corrected a mistake that had led to wrongful detention of four accused in a 21-year-old murder case without any hearing.
Following reports about the apex court replacing one wrong order with another, a four-judge curative bench headed by Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan rectified the mistake by ordering the acquittal of Bhoja, Puran, Raghubir and Balbir.
The court ordered immediate release of the four accused — except Raghubir who has been on bail — from Datia jail in Madhya Pradesh. The court had said on Tuesday that it would take up the matter in the first week of May.
“We are happy that the court has corrected its mistake and ordered immediate acquittal and release of our clients, whose acquittal was never challenged by the state,” counsel for the petitioners, M.Z. Chaudhary and Aftab Ali Khan, told HT.
During the 30-minute proceedings, Madhya Pradesh counsel Vibha Dutta Makhija said the state did challenge the acquittal of all the eight accused in the case but unfortunately the appeal in the SC reflected the names of only four of them.
The bench, however, did not agree with her. It acquitted the four accused, saying technically the acquittal of only four accused — Sughar Singh, Laxman, Onkar and Ramesh — was challenged by the state.
The case goes back to 1989 when the eight were booked for murder in a Madhya Pradesh village. In 1999, a sessions court convicted all and sentenced them for life. But in 2003, the high court acquitted all of them. The state challenged the acquittal of only four in the SC.
In November 2008, a three-judge SC bench overruled the HC verdict and convicted the eight. And in March 2009, a four-judge bench recalled that order — only to give another wrong one.