Nearly 26 years after being convicted for a gruesome attack on a rival political group from Pirkon village in Uran tehsil, the Bombay high court has set free 12 persons convicted by a trial court for killing five and injuring 58 others in the mass attack after finding that the witnesses’ testimonies were unreliable.
The incident took place in December 1986 when a mob of about 250 persons attacked a group of a rival political party from the same village. The mob had killed five persons and injured 44 others, 14 of whom were grievously hurt, and also destroyed houses of many of the victims.
The Uran police had booked in all 95 persons for the attack, and relying on evidence of seven prime witnesses, the Raigad sessions court had held 12 from the mob responsible for the killings and sentenced them to life imprisonment. The trial court had acquitted all others for want of cogent evidence.
The convicts had carried the matter to the high court, where a division bench of justices Bhushan Gavai and Shrihari Davare found several loopholes in the prosecution’s case. The judges found all the seven witnesses were related to the victims. “No doubt that merely because the witnesses are interested or related to the deceased is not the ground for discarding their evidence,” the judges said, adding, “But the evidence of such witnesses is required to be scrutinised with greater caution.”
The judges found the evidence of the witnesses was full of contradictions, omissions and improvements. “The ocular testimony of these witnesses is not corroborated by any other evidence,” they noted. “On the contrary, ocular testimony is in contradiction with the spot panchanama,” the judges said while reversing the trial court verdict.
The high court also noted that the trial court had disbelieved evidence of these witnesses while acquitting the accused of the charge of rioting and house breaking, but relied on the same evidence for convicting the 12 for the charge of murders.
The high court also found that these witnesses had improved their versions and their testimonies were contradictory to the medical evidence.