Bihar: HC quashes conviction of 13 people in 2016 hooch tragedy
The court on Wednesday also quashed the sentences awarded by the trial court at Gopalganj which included death penalty to nine of the accused and life imprisonment for the remaining four.
Published: 14th July 2022 09:25 PM | Last Updated: 14th July 2022 09:25 PM | A+A A-
PATNA: The Patna High Court has struck down the conviction of all 13 accused in the first major hooch tragedy that struck Bihar after the state went dry six years ago.
A division bench comprising Justice Ashwani Kumar Singh and Justice Harish Kumar on Wednesday also quashed the sentences awarded by the trial court at Gopalganj which included death penalty to nine of the accused and life imprisonment for the remaining four.
In the hooch tragedy that occurred in August, 2016, four months after the Nitish Kumar government banned sale and consumption of liquor in the state, 19 people had died in Khajrubani village of Gopalganj district.
Altogether 14 people had been named as accused out of whom one had died pending trial.
An additional district and sessions court at Gopalganj had, vide orders dated February 26, 2021 and March 5, 2021, convicted all the remaining accused and awarded sentences.
The court allowed the appeals filed by the accused against the lower court order, ordering their acquittal with the observation "on a responsible scrutiny of evidence it can safely be concluded that the prosecution miserably failed to prove their case beyond reasonable doubt".
In the judgement that runs into 89 pages, the court also pointed out shortcomings like "inordinate and unexplained delay" in lodging of an FIR and failure of the prosecution "to bring on record the post mortem of the persons who allegedly died due to consumption of liquor".
The court also noted with dismay that others who had fallen critically ill after the same hooch incident were not presented before the lower court nor the doctors who treated them or the medical reports were examined during trial.
It also expressed displeasure that "no independent witness was examined on behalf of the prosecution" and that "though all witnesses examined on behalf of the prosecution are police personnel, they have contradicted each other".
As a parting note, the court also referred to "a considerable number of judgements of trial court subjecting the accused persons to maximum sentences including death sentences which have ended in clean acquittal on reference and appeal".
"What surprises this court is the weird process of casual reasoning implied by the trial judges in appreciating the evidence. It appears that the judgements of the trial court are more because of personal feelings rather than being based on facts", the court said.