It was a “shaky prosecution story” that led to the acquittal of Himachal Pradesh MLA Ram Kumar Chaudhary and 11 others in the case of murder of Jyoti, the young woman with whom he allegedly had extramarital relations and, according to police, got her killed fearing that she would make their relationship public.
In his judgment, Additional District and Sessions Judge Roopam Singh has held that the evidence given by the prosecution was neither “conclusive” nor “convincing”.
So much so that the prosecution failed to prove that Jyoti was murdered. “There is a complete chain of circumstantial evidence which proves that, but for the acts of commission and omission on part of the accused, as per the alleged motive, murder was not possible,” says the judgment.
All charges, including cheating, forgery, fraud, destruction of evidence and criminal conspiracy, fell flat, exposing the shoddy investigation by the police.
Jyoti (24), a resident of Bhunga village in Hoshiarpur district, worked and studied in Chandigarh. On the night of November 21-22, 2012, she was found dead on a road in Sector 21 of Panchkula. Chaudhary and others were arrested and charged with her murder and other offences. The case was investigated by a special investigation team, headed by an IPS officer and consisting of two ACP rank officers.
According to the prosecution, Jyoti was killed because Chaudhary was unable to meet her demands for time and money. She also threatened to make the relationship public which, Chaudhary feared, could destroy his political career. He called his nephew Dharam Pal, Gurmeet and Paramjeet to help in the execution of his plan.
The police said that Jyoti was strangled unconscious and then a truck was run over her, crushing her head.
The judgment said that there were certain doubts in the prosecution story which remain unexplained, and the prosecution had failed to satisfy the anxiety of the court. “The evidence too has reasonable cracks. In fact, there is hardly any legal evidence against the accused,” reads the judgment.
For example, the prosecution said that Chaudhary called Jyoti on November 21, 2012, and asked her to bring the documents regarding her conception. The police said these documents were later found by the police near her body.
However, the court says that it was ‘highly improbable’ that Chaudhary left behind the documents near the body which would eventually go against him.
The prosecution had stated that since the tower locations of cellphones of Jyoti and Chaudhary simultaneously showed Airport Chowk, Ambala Road, near Zirakpur at 9.15 pm, it is proved that Chaudhary was in the company of Jyoti, and so it is up to Chaudhary to explain the factum of death.
Since Chaudhary did not submit an explanation regarding it, the prosecution requested the court to draw presumption against him.
But the court stated that if the criterion of sharing one tower location at the same time was fixed, then Jyoti would be presumed to be with all the accused with whom she shared the location. “It can hardly lead to presumption that Jyoti was in the company of Ram Kumar Chaudhary at the time of the incident,’’ said the judge.
The court said that the prosecution failed to prove that Jyoti was in the company of Chaudhary before her death, and that it was Chaudhary who had inflicted various injuries on her body to which she succumbed.
Further, the police said that the tyres of the truck used to run over Jyoti were burnt to destroy evidence. However, the court held that there was no evidence that the ash and semi-burnt pieces of the tyres pertained to the truck allegedly used in committing the crime.
The court held that the prosecution could not prove the presence of the truck in Panchkula on the day of the incident. Also, there was no evidence that Tilak Raj was ever employed as a driver by any of the accused. The prosecution also failed to prove that Jyoti was run over by that truck.
The court held that the disclosure statement of the accused was the only evidence in the case, but since it was not corroborated with the evidence, it gives the benefit of the doubt to the accused.
Stating that no one is guilty until his guilt is established beyond the shadow of all reasonable doubt, the court said prosecution had failed to prove their case. “In the overall nature of the deposition, the court was unable to find it a fit case for saddling the accused with criminal liability,” said the judgment.