All eight accused in a 2005 custodial death case, including five police personnel and three medical officers, are set to walk free after a Special CBI Court here acquitted them of all charges citing a lack of concrete evidence.
“It is trite to say that suspicion, howsoever grave, cannot take the place of proof and it is cardinal principal of criminal jurisprudence that charge against an accused can only be established by adducing evidence beyond reasonable doubt,” read the judgment by Special CBI judge Jagdeep Singh.
During the course of trial, the prosecution had produced 32 witnesses, including victim Chajju Ram’s wife and two sons. The witnesses had initially given statements against the eight accused but later turned hostile, while the testimony of some others was based heavily on hear-say.
The court, in its judgment, said: “No doubt, criminal conspiracy is always hatched in secrecy and direct evidence of criminal conspiracy is hard to find…however, circumstances put forth against the accused must be legal, relevant to the facts of the case and admissible in evidence…existence of conspiracy cannot be inferred merely on the basis of asking of prosecution or CBI or on the basis of hearsay evidence”.
While the judgment came on November 2, the order was signed on November 16 and made public earlier this week.
According to the CBI case, accused Randhir Singh, the then Inspector, Crime Investigation Agency (CIA), Rewari entered into criminal conspiracy with Gurdayal Singh, Nihal Singh, Ajit Singh and Rajesh Kumar, all police officials, and illegally picked up Chhaju Ram and his sons, Mukesh Kumar and Anil Kumar from their house on July 14, 2005. Wrongfully confined at CIA office in Rewari, Chhaju Ram was subjected to third degree beatings, which resulted into his death, as per the investigation.
At General Hospital, Rewari, accused doctors Prabhu Dayal Mehra, Jai Kishan Saini and Ashok Saini, who were members of medical board constituted for conducting postmortem examination, “entered into criminal conspiracy with aforesaid police officials and prepared incorrect report of the deceased”, as per the CBI.
While allegations were also made against the SDM Sujan Singh, DSP Pat Ram and three other police personnel, they were given a clean chit due to a lack of tangible evidence. The investigation was handed over to the CBI in September 2009, by the Punjab and Haryana High Court.
The CBI had filed a chargesheet for abduction in order to kill the kidnapped person, wrongful confinement, culpable homicide not amounting to murder, preparation of incorrect record to save person(s) from legal punishment, destruction of evidence of offence and criminal conspiracy.
Two post-mortems, on request of the family, were conducted including one at the General Hospital and the other at PGIMS Rohtak with varied results. While the first post-mortem stated no injuries, Dr Luv Sharma, who conducted the second post mortem at PGIMS, opined that “the four injuries were antemortem in nature caused by hard and blunt object as ecchymosis has been seen in the head injury, which establishes that the injures were ante mortem”. According to the judgement copy, he later changed his statement saying that “bruises after death…become appreciable after some time and postmortem injuries may be sustained by the dead body during transportation, handling or during the autopsy procedure.”
According to the judgment, two video cassettes/VCD of the two postmortems that had been seized during investigation too, had showed, that the injuries with contusion were in fact hidden by the Board of Doctors of General Hospital, Rewari intentionally and were not mentioned in their report.
But the court judgment, citing Dr Sharma’s changed statement, reads, “In view of the explanation furnished in his affidavit and also in view of other medical evidence coming on record, this court is of the considered opinion that no culpability can be imputed to accused who had conducted initial postmortem because it is no where made out that afore-said accused persons had deliberately concealed injuries on the person of Chhaju Ram while preparing postmortem report.”
The incident had occurred when Vinod Sharma, the kingpin of a gang of hardcore criminals and a resident of Mithathal village of Bhiwani district, was apprehended while his accomplice, Umesh of Jahidpur village in Rewari district, was killed in an encounter on July 13, 2005, in Berli Kalan village, 16 km from Rewari. After Sharma reportedly told the police during interrogation that Chhaju Ram supplied illicit arms to criminals and had close links with the underworld, the latter was picked up on July 14 from his home and brought to the CIA police post for interrogation. When his condition worsened during interrogation, he was taken to the local civil hospital, where he died.