SC acquits man of murder charges 36 years after the incident
A man, who was charged with the murder of his friend 36 years ago, was acquitted by the Supreme Court on February 20, overturning the conviction handed down by the trial court and affirmed by the Calcutta high court.
A bench of justices L Nageswara Rao and Deepak Gupta ruled that the evidence relied upon by the prosecution to prove the guilt of Md. Younus Ali Tarafdar was not sufficient and cannot lead to the conclusion that he committed the murder.
“A close scrutiny of the material on record would disclose that the circumstances relied upon by the prosecution to prove the guilt of the Appellant were not complete and do not lead to the conclusion that in all human probability the murder must have been committed by the Appellant,” the court held.
Tarafdar was accused of murdering his friend Becharam Dhara in March 1984. Dhara’s body was recovered from a well in a partially decomposed state. The body was identified by Dhara’s relatives.
Tarafdar, along with three others was charged with murder. The case against Tarafdar was based on the recovery of an Anglo-Swiss watch from a watch shop. The recovery itself was made after a confession by Tarafdar in this regard.
The wrist watch, the prosecution argued, belonged to Kenaram Dhara, the brother of deceased Becharam Dhara. Kenaram testified that he gave his wrist watch to Becharam when he left the house on March 15, 1984 before he was murdered. The proprietor of the watch shop testified that Tarafdar had given the watch for repair on March 19, 1984. Becharam’s sister also deposed before the court that the deceased left the house after telling her that he was going to visit Tarafdar.
The trial court convicted Tarafdar for murder under Section 302 of the Indian Penal code. The other accused were acquitted as the trial court was of the opinion that the prosecution could not establish their guilt.
The conviction of Tarafdar was based heavily on the recovery of the watch belonging to Becharam’s brother, which was given to Becharam when he left the house. The trial court had concluded that it was a strong circumstance which proved the involvement of Tarafdar in the crime. The signature of Tarafdar on the counterfoil taken from the watch shop owner was not denied by Tarafdar. He merely stated that the signature was taken forcibly by the police during the course of the investigation.
The trial court sentenced Tarafdar to undergo rigorous imprisonment for life. The Calcutta high court affirmed the conviction and sentence in July 2008.
The Supreme Court, however, held that the manner in which the confessional statement of Tarafdar was recorded and the seizure of the receipt of the watch from the watch shop was not free from doubt.
The top court, therefore, set aside the high court judgment and acquitted Tarafdar.
“…an overall consideration of the evidence on record, would not lead us to believe that the Appellant and the deceased were last seen together. There is no evidence on record to show that the Appellant was last seen with the deceased….It cannot be said that the Appellant failed to explain as to what happened after they were last seen together especially when there is no evidence to show that they were last seen together,” the apex court held.