In an appeal filed before the Supreme Court challenging the order of acquittal by the Allahabad High Court, the Bench of Justice N.V Ramana and Justice Mohan Shantanagoudar held that there were significant flaws in the investigation by the prosecution especially the process of identification of the accused by way of Test Identification Parade (TIP).
The facts in brief are that the pertinent case dealt with the riot at the Chaubey Gola Temple. During the said riot, an Additional District Magistrate was injured and subsequently succumbed of his injuries, which resulted in an investigation into the murder of the ADM. Subsequently, the Accused were arrested on charges of Section 302 read with 149, 307 read with 149, 148 of the IPC and Section 7 of Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1932 under which the trial court convicted the Accused. In appeal, the Allahabad High Court set aside the conviction by the trial court as there not only existed various contradictions in the testimonies of the prosecution witnesses but also lack of corroboration of the same was evident. As the identification of the accused was ‘highly suspicious’ and the TIP was held to be ‘too good to be believed’, the High Court held that the prosecution failed to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt and thereby dismissed the conviction of the trial court.
The Appellant-State contended that the arrest of the Respondent-Accused was done in a proper manner while taking due precautions and following the procedure as well as the identification of the Respondent-Accused by the witnesses was done clearly. As regards the delay in the TIP, the Appellant stated that the High Court had committed a grave error in not relying on the results of the TIP and there was nothing to prove that the TIP was conducted erroneously. The Respondents relied on the findings of the High Court and stated that the genuineness of the identification of the accused by the witnesses was questionable as the witnesses were at a great distance from the place of occurrence of the crime and such identification was done in the absence of any distinguishing marks or hulia from amongst a substantially large crowd of 200-300 rioters.
On perusing the arguments placed and evidences relied upon, the Bench observed the flaws in the investigation as follows:
- Firstly,it is apt to note that out of the seven eye witnesses who participated in the TIP, five of them identified the accused without committing any mistake.
- Secondly,it is surprising that, although the post- mortem report describes that there were only two wounds in the body of the deceased, one being the entry and the other being the exit wound, allegedly a bullet was still recovered from the ashes of the deceased.
- Thirdly,the prosecution has failed to establish that the bullet allegedly recovered from the ashes of the deceased 20 days later was indeed fired from the pistol recovered from accused-respondent Wasif Haider.
- Fourthly,as regards to the place of incident, the prosecution failed to ascertain the same with precision.
- Fifthly,the prosecution failed to examine Ram Chandra, the orderly of the deceased who was also injured in the same incident and had suffered a gunshot injury.
- Sixthly, the prosecution has also failed to adduce any independent witness.
- Lastly,it is surprising that although the charges have been framed under Section 307 of IPC, the prosecution has absolutely failed to substantiate the charges by means of evidence.
Upon observing the following lapses in investigation by the concerned officials, the Bench rejected the appeal thereby upholding the order of acquittal by the High Court as follows:
“Although we acknowledge the gravity of the offence alleged against the accused respondents and the unfortunate fact of a senior official losing his life in furtherance of his duty we cannot overlook the fact that the lapses in the investigation have disabled the prosecution to prove the culpability of the accused. The accused cannot be expected to relinquish his innocence at the hands of an inefficacious prosecution,which is ridden with investigative deficiencies. The benefit of doubt arising out of such inefficient investigation, must be bestowed upon the accused.”