Giving the benefit of doubt, the Madras High Court has confirmed the orders of a lower court acquitting 26 accused in an idol theft case in 2012.
No doubt, due to an efflux of time, the witnesses were not able to clearly identify the idols and the prosecution was not able to physically produce all the items recovered to get it marked and appreciated. Therefore, the well conducted investigation due to lapse in the follow up action in the trial has ended in acquittal extending the benefit of the doubt to these accused persons, Justice G Jayachandran said on Wednesday.
However, as pointed out by the government advocate (Criminal Side) the acquittal of the accused will not or should not secure any benefit to them to claim the idols recovered from them, the judge said. The source of idols has not been properly proved by letting out the evidence.
The failure of the prosecution to establish the guilt beyond doubt that the idols seized from their possession were stolen from temples of Tamil Nadu and antique in age will not lead to the inference that they are all of recent origin and owned by the accused from whom it was seized. It is the benefit of doubt, which has been extended by the Court below to acquit the accused persons.
The judge, however, made it clear that the idols recovered in this case shall be returned to the respective temples or to the museum maintained by the State and on no circumstances the accused shall claim the idols. If any attempt claiming ownership is made, no doubt the accused need to file a fresh petition and it will automatically reopen the trial of the case, the judge said.