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Orissa HC acquits life convict in murder case on ‘benefit of doubt’

The High Court felt that the trial court expedited the process at the expense of basic elements of fairness and opportunity to the accused.

Published: 22nd February 2020 08:20 AM  |   Last Updated: 22nd February 2020 08:20 AM   |  A+A-

Orissa High Court

Orissa High Court

By Express News Service

CUTTACK: Nine years after a trial court sentenced one Hiranya Kumar Behera to life imprisonment for murder, Orissa High Court has acquitted him, giving him the ‘benefit of doubt’.

The High Court felt that the trial court “expedited the process at the expense of basic elements of fairness and opportunity to the accused”.  

On June 30, 2011, the Court of Sessions Judge, Keonjhar had convicted and sentenced Behera to life imprisonment for the murder of one Sideo Munda.

Behera had allegedly killed Munda with an axe on September 11, 2009, in Jamuda village under Harichandanpur police station in Keonjhar district while he was sleeping on the verandah of his house.

Hiranya challenged the trial court’s verdict in High Court and the appeal petition was taken up in 2012 after the High Court Legal Services Committee appointed a lawyer to argue his case as he was not able to bear the expenses.

The appeal petition had since languished till a division bench gave verdict on it on February 13, 2020.

On examining case records the Court felt the accused is “entitled to be given benefit of doubt” as the conviction was based upon the sole eye witness (wife of deceased) and her evidence was found to be “not credible enough” due to contradiction with medical evidence.

“In the result, the appeal is allowed. The conviction of appellant under Section 302 of IPC and the sentence passed is set aside and the appellant be set at liberty forthwith from the jail, if he is not required in any other case”, the division bench of Justice SK Mishra and Justice AK Mishra, the judgment said.

“The evidence does not appear clinching because the four sons who were sleeping with mother had not seen the accused and the other son who had slept inside a separate room with his wife and had come outside hearing shout could able to see accused running away. This circumstance affecting credibility of the eye witness (wife of deceased) is magnified when the weapon of offence and chemical examination report are not proved,” the division bench observed.

The division bench further observed that the Trial Court Judge had on February 16, 2010, adjourned the case for chemical examination report but subsequently without taking any steps framed charge, examined witnesses and completed trial recording conviction.

Case history
June 30, 2011: Court of Sessions Judge, Keonjhar convicted and sentenced Hiranua Kumar Behera to life imprisonment for murder of one Sideo Munda in 2009
Appeal petition of  Behera was taken up by HC in 2012 
The appeal petition had since languished till a division bench gave verdict on it on February 13, 2020

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