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Breaking: Poor, Innocent Men Belonging To Nomadic Tribe Suffered 16 Yrs In Death Row: SC Orders Further Investigation, 5L Compensation

Ashok Kini
5 March 2019 2:15 PM GMT
Breaking: Poor, Innocent Men Belonging To Nomadic Tribe Suffered 16 Yrs In Death Row: SC Orders Further Investigation, 5L Compensation
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"The accused in the present case were nomadic tribes and falsely implicated and are roped in. Except one, all of them are in jail since last 16 years."

The Supreme Court has not only acquitted the six death convicts, but also ordered further investigation in a crime that occurred fifteen years ago. Ankush Maruti Shinde and five others were accused of committing five murders and raping a lady (who survived) and a child of 15 years of age (who died). The Supreme Court had upheld the death penalty awarded to all of them in the year 2009....

The Supreme Court has not only acquitted the six death convicts, but also ordered further investigation in a crime that occurred fifteen years ago.

Ankush Maruti Shinde and five others were accused of committing five murders and raping a lady (who survived) and a child of 15 years of age (who died). The Supreme Court had upheld the death penalty awarded to all of them in the year 2009. In a judgment delivered today, it has acquitted all of them.

2006-2019 (Death Sentence To Acquittal)

2006: Trial Court awards death penalty to Ankush Maruti Shinde and 5 others.
2007: Bombay HC affirms death to three, others sentenced to life imprisonment.
2009- SC confirms death to three, sentences others also to death.
2010: Review petitions filed by 3 death convicts dismissed.
2014: RPs filed by the other 3 death convicts admitted.
2016: 3 death convicts whose RPs were dismissed filed applications for open court hearing.
2018: Justice Kurian led 3 Judge bench recalls 2009 Judgment.
2019: All Six Acquitted By SC.

The Mysterious Four

The bench observed that it had come on record that, in her statement made to the special executive magistrate, the injured witness (who was allegedly raped) had, in fact, identified four persons from the photographs with name, who are other than accused who were tried in the case.

"There is no investigation at all qua the four persons who were identified by PW8 on 7.6.2003. On the contrary, the accused in the present case were nomadic tribes and falsely implicated and are roped in." observed the bench.

Apparently, the conviction recorded by the Trial Court heavily relied on the deposition made by the same witness (PW8), who after two and a half years, gave evidence against these six accused. Though it was argued before the High court that, the allegations made in her deposition was not stated by her to the police/special executive magistrate in her statements that were recorded during the investigation, the bench rejected the same, observing that the omissions are minor omissions.

"On scanning the entire evidence of PW8, we do not accept the observation of the High Court that the omissions are minor omissions. On considering the deposition of PW8 about the incident and the role alleged to have been played by different accused persons, we are of the opinion that the omissions are major omissions and improvements which are fatal to the case of the prosecution and in any case, it creates reasonable doubt on the trustworthiness and the reliability of PW8.", the bench observed in this regard.

The bench then observed that this is a fit case for further investigation under Section 173(8) of the Code of Criminal Procedure qua those four persons, who were identified by the injured witness. It ordered:

"The prosecution is directed to conduct further investigation under Section 173(8) of the Code of Criminal Procedure qua those four persons who were identified by PW8 – an injured eye witness on 7.6.2003 from the album of photographs of notorious criminals with their names, i.e., immediately after the incident, whose particulars and names are mentioned in the statement of PW8 recorded by PW13 on 7.6.2003, so that real culprits should not go unpunished in a crime in which five persons were killed brutally and one lady was even subjected to rape."

All were facing the hanging sword of death penalty

While directing the state to pay compensation of Rupees Five Lakhs each to the 'accused', the bench also narrated the plight underwent by them for last one and a half decade in jail.

"Except one, all of them are in jail since last 16 years. All were facing the hanging sword of death penalty. Out of six accused persons, one was subsequently found to be a juvenile. As per the report of Dr. Ashit Sheth, a Psychiatrist, who examined one of the accused – Ankush Maruti Shinde, who was subsequently found to be a juvenile, he has clearly opined that he has lived under sub-human conditions for several years. He was kept in isolation in solitary confinement with very restricted human contact and under perpetual fear of death. He was only allowed to meet his mother, and that too only infrequently. He was not even allowed to mix with other prisoners. Therefore, all the accused remained under constant stress and in the perpetual fear of death. As they were facing the death penalty, they might not have availed any other facilities of parole, furlon etc. All of them who were between the age of 25-30 years (and one of the accused was a juvenile) have lost their valuable years of their life in jail. Their family members have also suffered."

Take Departmental Action Against Erring Officials

Strongly deprecating the conduct on the part of the investigating agency and the prosecution, the court also directed the Chief Secretary, Home Department, State of Maharashtra to enquire into the matter and take departmental action against those erring officers/officials, if those officers/officials are still in service.

"We direct the Chief Secretary, Home Department, State of Maharashtra to look into the matter and identify such erring officers/officials responsible for failure of a prosecution case, on account of sheer negligence or because of culpable lapses, real culprits are out of the clutches of law and because of whose lapses the case has resulted into acquittal in a case where five persons were killed brutally and one lady was subjected to even rape."

Read Judgment



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