‘Missing links in prosecution’ has led to the acquittal of an accused who was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment by a trial court for causing the death of another person.
A division bench of the High Court headed by Justice L Narasimha Reddy has set aside the conviction and sentence ordered against the accused by the VIII Additional District and Sessions Judge (FTC), Visakhapatnam.
As for the case details, the deceased (Lingam), a resident of Pothulagaruvu village of Visakhapatnam district, was allotted a house site in the village under a government scheme. The house site is said to be adjacent to a piece of land owned by the accused (Budi Mathsya Lingam), and the allotment in favour of the deceased was not to the liking of the accused. Fifteen days prior to the incident, the deceased had constructed basement for a compound wall which was allegedly demolished by the accused. Then at a panchayat conducted before the elders of the village, the accused was admonished.
On December 23, 2007, the second wife of the deceased, his brother-in-law, and his son by the first wife (who is no more), were said to be sitting in their house at 5 pm. The accused is said to have come to their house, and called the deceased out for a discussion about the house site. After taking him to some distance, the accused allegedly hacked the deceased. A complaint to this effect was lodged by the eldest son of the deceased on December 25, 2007.
The incident is said to have been reported to the president of the Panchayat, MPTC, and with the help of some persons, the body of the deceased was carried to the graveyard the next day.
For some reason or the other, the complaint did not result in the registration of a crime. Only on the next day, when the body was taken to the graveyard, the crime was registered under Section 302 of the IPC. An Investigation was then conducted and the chargesheet filed. The trial court found the accused guilty of the offence and sentenced him to life imprisonment. The accused then approached the high court challenging the order of the trial court.
Counsel for the accused submitted that the very manner of initiation of the proceedings by the police was uncertain and several aspects remained unexplained. The incident occurred on December 23, but the FIR was registered on December 26. Registration of the crime two days after the occurrence, which is said to have been witnessed by the family members of the deceased, attested to a serious legal infirmity. There was no basis for the trial court to convict the accused, he argued.
On the other hand, public prosecutor submitted that the delay in the registration of the FIR was on account of lack of certainty on some aspects. The trial court had taken all the relevant factors into account and convicted the accused, he added.
After perusing the records, the bench said this was not at all the conduct expected of a person, claiming to be the wife of the deceased. Once she came to know about an incident of that nature, she was required to report it to the police at the earliest.
Though she claimed to have informed the police about it the next day, the record did not support this. According to the witnesses, the body was kept in the house and it was only on the next day that it was taken to the graveyard.
The bench pointed out that the Investigating Officer stated that even after the body was brought to the burial ground, near the police station, he asked relatives of the deceased to wash the body, and he went to the burial ground only on December 26.
In his cross examination, he stated that none of the witnesses examined by him had any knowledge on which side of the neck the deceased was hacked by the axe. Several persons, named as witnesses, were not examined at all. Though the death occurred at 5 pm on December 23, 2007, the inquest itself was conducted at about 10 am on December 26. No explanation whatsoever was forthcoming, the bench noted.
“It has already been observed that the evidence of the witness (second wife of the deceased) does not command any acceptance, be it on account of the nature of relationship she maintained with the deceased, or the acts and omissions on her part after the incident. We find several missing links in the entire prosecution. The conviction and sentence ordered against the accused cannot be sustained in law,” the bench observed. While allowing the appeal, the bench set aside the conviction and the sentence ordered against the appellant-accused and directed that the latter be set at liberty forthwith, unless his detention is needed in any other case.