The Bombay High Court has set aside a 22-year-old judgement of the Additional Sessions Judge, Satara acquitting one Ramchandra Lokhande who was accused under Sections 302 and 201 of the Indian Penal Code.
The division bench of Justices VK Tahilramani and Revati Mohite Dere have convicted Lokhande under charges of murder and causing disappearance of evidence and sentenced him to suffer life imprisonment.
The actual goes back almost 30 years, when on February 28, 1987 the deceased Nirmala was found dead on the floor of her house by her neighbours. Nirmala’s husband Ramchandra Lokhande and her 6-year-old son were also present in the house with her.
At around 6 in the morning, neighbours heard Lokhande’s voice shouting “What have you done?” Thereafter, the door was opened by him and the neighbours saw Nirmala lying on the floor and her body had sustained severe burns.
Following this Nirmala’s body was sent for post-mortem. The advance medical certificate stated that it was a case of murder. Hence the accused was arrested the very same day.
The accused then pleaded not guilty before the Sessions judge and said he was being falsely implicated in the case and claimed that his wife had committed suicide.
There was no eye witness in the case. It is purely based on circumstantial evidence.
Dr.Raokhande, who conducted the post-mortem concluded that the death was actually due to stab wounds in the deceased’s abdomen. The body of Nirmala was set on fire after she died due to stab wounds.
Circumstances pointed at Nirmala’s husband Ramchandra Lokhande. However, the Sessions Judge rejected the post mortem report and concluded that it was not a case of homicide but suicide. The reasoning behind this order was that Dr.Raokhande did not conduct two specific tests for detecting enzymes in the body.
The division bench observed that a detailed explanation was given by Dr.Raokhande in his report and the Sessions Judge had failed to appreciate the evidence properly. The bench said -
“If the story of the respondent is true, a blood-stained knife would be found in the house of the respondent. It is not possible that the wife of the respondent would have stabbed herself, would have washed the knife, kept it in place and thereafter set herself on fire. Such a sequence of events is just not possible and it is totally unthinkable.”
Court then observed that the accused, his wife and their son were in the house, the door was locked from inside and considering the circumstances thereafter Section 106 of the Evidence Act would “definitely come into play.”
The bench observed- “Just because in a case of circumstantial evidence a motive is not proved, it does not mean the accused is entitled to acquittal.”
Furthermore, in the case of State of Rajasthan v. Kashi Ram, the apex court had observed – “If the accused fails to offer an explanation on the basis of facts within his special knowledge, he fails to discharge the burden cast upon him by Section 106 of the Indian Evidence Act. In a case resting on circumstantial evidence if the accused fails to offer a reasonable explanation in discharge of the burden placed on him, that itself provides an additional link in the chain of circumstances proved against him.”
Thus, the Court finally held that the prosecution had proved the case Under Sections 302 and 201 and sentenced the accused who has been on bail since his acquittal on July 31, 1995.
Read the Judgment Here.