9 Jun 2023 12:43 PM GMT
Terming the evidence of prosecution as highly unreliable, the Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh High Court has upheld the acquittal of alleged active members of Lashkar-e-Taiba, who as per prosecution were hell-bent upon creating unrest in the valley and had been indulging in the acts of sabotage and terrorist activities to dislodge the Governments.Expressing serious reservations against the...
Terming the evidence of prosecution as highly unreliable, the Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh High Court has upheld the acquittal of alleged active members of Lashkar-e-Taiba, who as per prosecution were hell-bent upon creating unrest in the valley and had been indulging in the acts of sabotage and terrorist activities to dislodge the Governments.
Expressing serious reservations against the evidence that the prosecution had put forth before the trial court a bench of Justice MA Chowdhary observed,
“The story of the prosecution otherwise seems to be unreliable in view of the fact that the seven persons allegedly involved in terrorist activities and as alleged by the police to be members of Laskhar-e-Taiba a dreaded organization were sitting like ducks at a public place in Wildlife Sanctuary at Manda waiting for the police to be arrested without any reaction and despite availability of the weapon/explosives they had not used them to retaliate while being arrested by the police”.
In the instant case on 28th August 2004, the Incharge Police Station Pacca Danga had received information from a reliable source stating that the respondents, who were active members of Lashkar-e-Taiba, planned to create unrest in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. The source had claimed that the respondents were present in the nearby forest of Manda Jammu, conspiring to carry out their nefarious plans.
Based on this information, a case was registered charging the respondents with various offences, including sections 121, 121-A, 122, 120-B, 153A of the RPC (Ranbir Penal Code), as well as sections 4/5 of the Explosive Substances Act and 7/25 of the Arms Act. A police party, both in uniform and plain clothes, was formed and conducted a raid where the accused were allegedly found conspiring among themselves. They were apprehended, and during the search, various weapons were allegedly recovered, such as grenades and a pistol, along with a letter from the District Commander of Lashkar-e-Taiba and a letter pad belonging to the organization.
After investigation, charge sheet was filed under sections 212 of the RPC, 4/5 of the Explosive Substances Act, and 7/25 of the Arms Act.
During the trial, some of the prosecution witnesses testified against the accused. However, despite multiple opportunities, the IO (Investigating Officer) and other witnesses were not produced for examination.
After considering the evidence and testimonies, the Trial Court acquitted all the accused, citing the prosecution's failure to establish the charges beyond a reasonable doubt. The court did not find the prosecution's story credible, as it claimed that the respondents, who were armed with weapons, did not open fire or throw grenades at the police party.
Justice Chowdhary upon examining the statements of the prosecution witnesses observed there is no conclusive and corroborative evidence in view of statements of the different prosecution witnesses as they have differed with each other in material aspects. Some of the prosecution witnesses stated that the accused were found sitting on the concrete chairs/benches on the pathway maintained in Wildlife Sanctuary Manda for the evening/morning walkers in the area whereas one of them deposed that they were found on one side of the road leading to Nagrota. Some of the witnesses stated that the accused were found just behind Ashoka Hotel, the court pointed.
Highlighting the fact that no independent witness has been associated to prove the arrest of the accused or recovery of the weapons/explosives from their possession, the court said that though the accused were found in a public place just behind a prominent hotel of Jammu, even if there was no person available from the public, the staff of the hotel could have been associated at the time of seizure of the weapon and explosive material from the accused.
The court furthermore noted that the police had initially registered a case invoking sedition charges against the accused but later dropped those charges before filing the chargesheet. During the trial, most prosecution witnesses could not identify any of the accused, and the recovery of the pistol and grenades from the accused's possession was questionable. No independent witness was associated with the process of recovery and seizure and hence the trial court has rightly acquitted all the accused, the court concluded while dismissing the plea.
Case Title: State (now UT) of J&K Vs Bashir Ahmad
Citation: 2023LiveLaw (JKL) 155
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