Over six months after a Mumbai sessions court sentenced two men to life imprisonment on charges of murder, the Bombay High Court has suspended their punishment and granted them bail while observing ‘glaring infirmities’ in the prosecution’s case. The two men, both with speech and hearing impairment, were convicted on January 22 this year for the murder of a 55-year-old woman at her Bandra residence in 2013 with the motive to rob her ornaments and cash.
Both the accused, Saifraza Bhavnagari and Parvez Wahid Khan, were in custody since June 2013 and were found guilty on charges, including murder, voluntarily causing hurt in committing robbery, house-trespass and common intent, by the trial court. The prosecution had alleged that Bhavnagari was seen near the building of the victim on the day of the incident, that stolen jewellery was recovered from him and a razor blade, alleged to be the murder weapon, was also recovered. The prosecution had recorded the statement of a building watchman, claiming to have seen two persons with a bag in the evening, after they committed the crime.
“This witness has categorically admitted that those two accused were shown to him by the police at Bandra police station and he was also shown their photographs. The cross-examination reveals that the police had tortured the witness and assaulted him with a belt. Apart from him, other security guards were also tortured by the police. Therefore, at this stage, there is sufficient doubt about the veracity of his evidence since he was pressurised by the police and since the accused were shown to him,” said the division bench of Justice B R Gavai and Justice Sarang V Kotwal, while hearing the appeal.
The bench further said the recovery of the jewellery also ‘may not be genuine’, as a panch witness examined by the prosecution had admitted that the police had shown the articles to him before the recovery was conducted. The court further said the recovery of the razor from an open space also appears to be doubtful. “In view of these glaring infirmities in the prosecution case, we are inclined to allow the application,” said the bench, suspending the sentence pending final hearing of the appeal of Bhavnagari in June. Khan’s appeal was allowed last week on similar grounds with the court observing that the recovery of a mobile phone from the crime spot was not ‘trustworthy’.
On January 22, sessions judge D P Satawalekar had sentenced the two to life imprisonment, observing that there was enough evidence to prove that the two had entered the 10th floor flat of Aarti Chainani, while she was alone at home and killed her on June 11, 2013, with an intent to rob her.