The Supreme Court on Tuesday acquitted 11 policemen from Maharashtra sentenced to life imprisonment for allegedly killing an accused in their custody in the Arvi Police Station in Vidarbha region of the state in 1987.
Reversing the January 17, 2005 Bombay High Court order convicting the policemen, a Bench of Justice GP Mathur and Justice AK Mathur restored the finding of the trial court, which had acquitted them for the prosecution's failure to trace the body of deceased Dilip.
The Bench, however, noted with concern that such incidents of 'suspect dying' in the police custody have lately increased.
"We are of the opinion that the view taken by the division bench of the Bombay high court in reversing the judgment of Second Additional Sessions Judge does not appear to be well founded," the apex court said.
"Normally the appellate court is very slow in interfering with the order of acquittal unless there are compelling circumstances to do so. We are of the opinion that the view taken by the trial court appears to be just and proper in the given facts and circumstances of the case and it was not proper for the division bench of the Bombay high court to reverse the finding," it observed.
Those acquitted in the case included Sadashio Mundaji Bhalerao, Batstam Devidas Pawar, Bhimrao Pawar, Dilip Khusmya Ghosale, Chaubharat Ramchandra Ghosale, Partya Khusmya Ghosale, Navbharat Ramchandra Ghosale and Gahgacharan Sukhadeo Pawar.
A total of 17 policemen stood trial in a case but six of them were either acquitted or died during the protracted litigation.
Prosecution had claimed to have recovered Dilip's body in 1989—two years after the incident from Adilabad in the neighbouring Andhra Pradesh but forensic examination could prove that it was that of the deceased. Dilip was accused of dacoity.
"It is very difficult to connect the dead body with that of the deceased—Dilip which came to the light after two years…," the apex court said.
"We cannot rush to the conclusion just because the deceased has died in police custody without there being any proper link with the commission of the crime," it said accepting defence counsel AK Sanghi's arguments.
Majority of the witnesses had turned hostile or were allegedly won over by the accused police personnel.
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