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HC raps trial judge for ‘suspicion’ judgment

Seven years after the death of a young woman,the Delhi High Court on Monday acquitted her husband and three of his family,who were earlier found guilty by a trial court.

Written by Krishnadas Rajagopal | New Delhi |
May 12, 2009 1:06:41 am

Seven years after the death of a young woman,the Delhi High Court on Monday acquitted her husband and three of his family,who were earlier found guilty by a trial court.

A bench led by Justice Pradeep Nandrajog blamed the trial judge for an unreasonable guilty verdict — a decision based on “suspicions and not evidence” — in 2005 against the woman’s husband,Balbir Singh,his father,Randhir,and two others. All four were sentenced to life in prison.

The bench began its judgment with a preface on how “at a trial,when the heart and mind of a judge turns cold,the first casualty is Article 21 (right to life) of the Constitution and the second casualty is the oath taken by the judge”.

“A reasoned decision is not one which spans pages and pages of paper. A judgment at the end of a criminal trial that ignores the evidence that has been brought on record,and without application of mind,is a serious violation of the rights of the accused,” the court noted about the findings of the trial judge . “It is settled law that howsoever strong a suspicion may be,it cannot take the place of proof.”

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The HC ruling on an appeal filed by the four accused dismissed an eyewitness’ account as “concocted”. The eyewitness,victim Laxmi’s sister Rajo,was married into the same family when the incident took place.

During the trail,Rajo had testified that on July 20,2002,she saw the accused administer a poisonous injection to Laxmi. They,she had said,then dragged her upstairs and strangled her.

The bench found her testimony “weak” on the ground that she did not tell a single woman in the neighbourhood that her sister was “murdered”. Their neighbours had visited their house when the news of Laxmi’s death spread.

“The conduct of Rajo in not telling a single (neighbourhood) lady that her sister has been murdered,is also indicative of the fact that with the passage of time,Rajo spun out a concocted version,” the bench remarked.

The court also saw the conduct of Laxmi’s in-laws in cremating her without informing the police as merely an “ill-advised” step.

The judges went on to reason that Balbir Singh and his family had “prima facie” opted to cremate the body without informing the police only due to their “fear” of the police and not because they were guilty of any crime.

Though the court noted that Laxmi’s father had indeed reported to the police about the accused abusing her,the bench dismissed his version on the ground that he did not promptly notify the police of what Rajo saw on the night of the alleged crime.

The bench also gave credence to the fact that the prosecution had failed to produce the syringe used to inject the poison or details of the purchase of the toxin,aluminium phosphide,allegedly used on the victim.

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