KOCHI: The High Court on Friday set aside the conviction and sentence awarded by the Sessions Court, Kollam to Biju Radhakrishnan, who is the first accused in a case related to the murder of his wife, Reshmi, in February 2006. The Sessions Court had awarded life imprisonment to Biju and directed him to pay a fine of Rs 1 lakh for the offence under section 302 (murder) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
The prosecution alleged Biju had forced Reshmi to consume liquor laced with poison and asphyxiated her at his house at Kulakkad in Kottarakara. The murder took place on the night of February 4, 2006. Biju was arrested on June 17, 2013, by the Crime Branch.
The court noted the prosecution relied on the deposition of a minor child in order to prove that the accused had assaulted his mother and forced to drink some form of liquid. At the relevant time, the child was only three-and-a-half-years old. When he was examined before the court, he was 11 years old. It was settled law that the investigating officer must record the statement of eyewitnesses to the occurrence at the earliest opportunity after registration of the case.
If there was a failure to record the statement for a considerably long period, the evidentiary value of such statements may be diminished. “If there is a delay in examining a child witness, there is every chance for the child witness to be tutored,” observed the court.
The court also flayed the police officer for the lapses in recording the statement of the child and observed that the attitude of the officer would amount to grave dereliction of duty and negligence in investigating the case.
The petitioner argued that initially, the possibility of the cause of death was due to consumption of ethyl alcohol and after several years, a new theory had been brought out stating that it was an asphyxial death, for which there was no material evidence. The court said no materials had been brought out to infer a forcible administration of ethyl alcohol and the consequent soft smothering as alleged by the prosecution.
The accused was entitled to the benefit of doubt and was entitled to acquittal for the offence under IPC Section 302. Biju had also been convicted for the offence under IPC Section 201 (Causing disappearance of evidence) . There was no such evidence other than the assumption he had destroyed the evidence.The court directed to release Biju forthwith if his presence is not required in connection with any other case. The court also acquitted Rajammal, Biju’s mother, second accused in the case.