NEW DELHI: It was an extremely rare day at the Supreme Court, as eight death-row convicts were acquitted on Tuesday.
While in one case, six men falsely implicated for murder were allowed to walk free, in the other, two men who allegedly committed robbery and murdered five women, were vindicated.
In the first case, the State of Maharashtra was ordered to pay a compensation of Rs 5 lakh to each of the six men who had to spend 16 years behind bars for a crime they didn’t commit.
It was a 2014 SC verdict — offering death-row convicts as many opportunities as possible for review — that gave the accused a window of opportunity, which was how they filed their appeal.
A bench of Justices A K Sikri, S Abdul Nazeer and M R Shah came down heavily on the shoddy investigation and the prosecution and directed the state’s Chief Secretary to bring the erring police officers to book.
“The investigating agency is expected to act in an honest and fair manner... Their ultimate aim should not be to get conviction by hook or crook. Applying the aforesaid principles... we are of the opinion that there was no fair and honest investigation, and even the prosecution tried to suppress the material facts,” the Supreme Court observed.
In the second case, the same bench of the apex court observed that there were inconsistencies in the statement of a witness, who was a minor when the crime was committed in 2012 and acquitted the convicts, who were sentenced to the gallows by the Chhattisgarh High Court. The high court had in 2015 upheld the death sentence awarded to the duo by a trial court.
‘Facts Don’t add up’
In the Chhattisgarh case of robbery and murder of five women in 2012, the SC said the motive attributed to the accused was not substantiated as gold ornaments were left on site