A YEAR after a man was sentenced to death for the murder of a 12-year-old boy in 2012, the Bombay High Court on Wednesday set aside the sentence and acquitted him of all charges. The court also acquitted his aide, who was sentenced to life imprisonment.
In May 2018, a sessions court had sent Imtiyaz Shaikh (27) to the gallows and sentenced Azad Ansari (27) to life imprisonment, holding them guilty of kidnapping a boy from Dharavi and murdering him. His body was later found at Shanti Nagar in Bhiwandi.
Last year, when the trial court had convicted these two accused, it had also acquitted two persons and declared one accused as juvenile. The minor is set to be tried before the juvenile court.
A division bench of Justice B P Dharmadhikari and Justice Swapna Joshi on Wednesday observed that none of the circumstances have been proved beyond reasonable doubt. It added that the prosecution is unable to show that the cellphone number, from which ransom calls were made to the father of the boy, were used by any of the accused.
The court also said that the prosecution has failed to provide satisfactory evidence that ransom calls were indeed made by the accused.
The prosecution has alleged that in May 2012, Imtiyaz had lured the boy with a treat and killed him the same day. The accused, after killing the boy, had pretended that he was alive and made a ransom call to his father demanding Rs 25 lakh, it had claimed. An FIR was registered at Shahu Nagar police station in Mahim.
In the trial court, the prosecution had examined 20 witnesses. The three crucial witnesses who deposed, included a golawala (crushed ice candy seller), who had seen the boy with Shaikh and Ansari, when they got him an ice candy. The second witness, a hotel attendant, had seen Shaikh and the juvenile accused with the boy, having dinner at the hotel. The third witness was the juvenile’s roommate, who had seen the boy in their room. The juvenile had said that the boy was Shaikh’s nephew.
With no eyewitness, the prosecution’s case had rested on circumstantial evidence. According to the prosecution, the father of the boy was engaged in the embroidery business and had allegedly fired Shaikh for his poor performance. Police had said that Shaikh killed the boy out of vengeance.