A local court on Thursday acquitted Ram Kumar Chaudhary, a Congress MLA of Himachal Pradesh, on the charge of murdering a young woman with whom he allegedly had an extramarital affair and whose body was found on a road in Sector 21 on Panchkula on the night of November 21-22, 2012.
Additional District and Sessions Judge Roopam Singh also acquitted 11 other accused, including Chaudhary’s brother Harbhajan Singh.
Reasons for acquittal could not be known as the judgment was not immediately available.
Jyoti (24), a resident of Bhunga village in Hoshiarpur district, worked and studied in Chandigarh. Police said Chaudhary had her killed when she started insisting that he marry her. Chaudhary was already married. Besides, Jyoti belonged to a scheduled caste. According to the police, he feared that his political career would be ruined if a rebuffed Jyoti made their relationship public.
Soon after the court pronounced the order, Chaudhary and four other main accused, who had been in jail since January 2013, were freed. A visibly relieved Chaudhary said, “The Panchkula police tried their best to falsely implicate me in the case, but now the truth is out, and I’m free. I’m happy, justice has been done.”
His wife Nidhi Chaudhary said, “I had complete faith in God, and I knew that my husband would come out clean.”
However, Jyoti’s father Buti Ram said he would challenge the acquittal. “I will approach the high court, and then the Supreme Court, if necessary,’’ he said.
Besides Chaudhary, the main accused were his nephew Dharam Pal, friends Gurmeet, Paramjeet, and Tilak Raj, driver of the truck which was allegedly used to kill Jyoti. Paramjeet owned the truck.
The other accused included Pankaj, Ashish, Satish Kaushal of Baddi in HP who had allegedly given Chaudhary SIM cards on fake IDs. Chaudhary allegedly used these SIM cards to stay in touch with Jyoti.
Chaudhary’s brother Harbhajan Singh, and his friends Baljeet, Kamaljeet and Nirmal were accused of harbouring him after the crime.
Jyoti stayed in Sector 21 of Chandigarh. She left the place on the morning of November 21, after telling her landlady that she was going home for a few days. However, the police said that later in the day, she went with Chaudhary in his car. Dharam Pal and Gurmeet joined them at Zirakpur. At Panchkula, Pramajeet also joined. Police said Jyoti was first strangled unconscious and then thrown on the road where a truck was driven over her, crushing her head. Her post-mortem showed that she had recently undergone an abortion.
Buti Ram accused Chaudhary of murdering Jyoti. Photos of the wedding of Jyoti’s sister were produced in court to show that Chaudhary knew the family. However, Chaudhary denied that he ever knew Jyoti, or the family.
During the trial, Buti Ram retracted his allegations, but later said that he had done this under duress.
According to defence counsel Amandeep Bindra, it was discrepancies in the call details of the mobile numbers of the accused, including driver Tilak Raj, who allegedly drove his truck over Jyoti, which played an important role in the acquittal of the accused.
“The prosecution was relying mainly on the call records, and we highlighted the discrepancies,” he said.
Further, the report of the Forensic Science Laboratory at Madhuban on the hair strands found on Jyoti’s body stated that the hair belonged to a male, but did not match with the samples of any of the five main accused.
Also, the prosecution claim that Chaudhary had accompanied Jyoti to a nursing home for abortion in August 2012 could not be proved.
However, public prosecutor Manoj Kumar said, “We will examine the judgment and file an appeal in the Punjab and Haryana High Court.”