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Tuesday, Sep 24, 2019

Shibu Soren’s aquittal on expected lines

The acquittal of former Union minister Shibu Soren and four others in the Shashi Nath Jha murder case has not surprised many, report Harish V Nair and Satya Prakash.

india Updated: Aug 23, 2007 04:18 IST
Harish V Nair and Satya Prakash
Harish V Nair and Satya Prakash
Hindustan Times

The acquittal of former Union minister Shibu Soren and four others in the Shashi Nath Jha murder case has not surprised many. Their conviction eight months ago had raised more questions than given answers, particularly about the manner in which the trial court dealt with vital DNA test evidence.

The five men were held guilty of criminal conspiracy, abduction and murder primarily on the basis of forensic evidence provided by the post-mortem report, skull superimposition test and skull injury report. This was in addition to eyewitness accounts and some circumstantial evidence. But the DNA that had been extracted from the skeleton had never matched with that of the brother and mother of Jha.

Interestingly, Additional Sessions Judge B.R. Kedia did not consider the reports of four DNA tests conducted on the court’s orders on the ground that the DNA experts were not examined during the trial and the reports were not exhibited. But nothing stopped the court from summoning them. Though all the reports went against the CBI, the trial court’s verdict went in the agency’s favour.

While acquitting Soren and others, the Delhi High Court wondered how the trial judge could have ignored the well-established fact that a DNA test is considered conclusive evidence while skull superimposition tests only allude to a probability. “From the analysis of the DNA reports, it appears doubtful that the skeleton exhumed was that of Shashi Nath Jha since neither the family supports any of the apparel found on the skeleton as those belonging to Jha, nor does the post-mortem conducted support the prosecution theory that he was killed with two iron rod blows,” said the Bench.

The High Court also held that the prosecution could not establish the existence of criminal conspiracy between the accused for the abduction and murder of Jha. It observed there was nothing on record to show as to when, where and how the “so-called conspiracy” was hatched.

Soren’s counsel had argued that in the absence of any material, the trial court’s finding that conspiracy stood proved was “fanciful and based on conjectures”.

The CBI had claimed the case against Soren was fully established by 41 circumstantial evidences, including his post-murder conduct and a series of "false statements" in the court. However, the High Court agreed with the defence that “proven circumstances taken together do not form a chain that leads to an inference that the accused persons are guilty of the offence charged”.

First Published: Aug 23, 2007 04:16 IST