Taking serious note of glaring lapses in investigation and prosecution of a murder case, the Bombay high court recently directed the state government to enquire into the acts of omissions and commissions purportedly committed by two police officers, who investigated the case, and the assistant public prosecutor, who prosecuted the accused, a father-son duo from Chandrapur.
The division bench of Justice BP Dharmadhikari and Justice AS Chandurkar directed that the inquiry be completed within six months and the report be placed before it by July 10, 2017.
“The entire investigation is defective and shows lapses going to the root of the matter,” said the bench while reversing conviction of 24-year-old Mohan Pendam and his father Khushal. “Highly unsatisfactory investigation with vital lapses makes it impossible to convict the accused,” the bench cited as reason for making it impossible for it to uphold the trial court order convicting the father-son duo.
According to the prosecution, the incident took place at Ashtabhuja in Chandrapur on March 8, 2013, when Mohan and Khushal, killed Ankush Suryavanshi, attempted to kill the wife Heena, and also injured their neighbour, Siddharth Suryavanshi. A year later, the trial court convicted both of them of murder, attempt to murder and voluntarily causing grievous hurt, and sentenced them to life imprisonment.
The high court, however, found glaring lapses in the investigation as also in prosecution of the father-son duo, and acquitted them giving them the benefit of doubt. It noted that though the incident took place in a residential locality and many people had gathered, the prosecution could not find any independent witnesses to support its case.
The bench further noted that the best available evidence, the earliest version of events, as seen by material witnesses was not produced before the trial court, police officer who recorded complaint and registered FIR did not enter the witness box. It also found that though bloodstained clothes of the accused were seized, the memo did neither mention from where and from whom the clothes had been seized. The judges also found the discovery of the weapons purportedly used by the accused equally faulty, thus leaving them with no option but to acquit the two.
The bench concluded that both the investigating officers and the assistant public prosecutor prima facie appeared to be the erring officers responsible for failure of the prosecution case, and taking cue from the Supreme Court ruling of 2014, ordered inquiry against them.
In 2014, in State of Gujarat v/s. Kishanbhai, the Supreme Court has held that every acquittal should be understood as a failure of the justice delivery system, in serving the cause of justice. Likewise, every acquittal should ordinarily lead to the inference, that an innocent person was wrongfully prosecuted. The Supreme Court directed the state government shall also identify the investigating and / or prosecuting officials responsible for the acquittal and if the acquittal is found to be the result of their blameworthy conduct, appropriate departmental action must be taken against the erring officials. Taking into consideration the seriousness of the matter, the official concerned may be withdrawn from investigative or prosecution responsibilities, permanently or temporarily, depending purely on his culpability, the Apex Court has said.