HC questions police probe, acquits Maha man handed life sentence by lower court for murder


PTI, Jan 29, 2022, 6:32 PM IST

The Bombay High Court has acquitted a 21-year-old man, who was handed life imprisonment by a sessions court for killing a woman in 2017, observing that the evidence given by a child witness is ”demonstrably unreliable and insufficient” for convicting the accused on the charge of murder. A bench of justices SS Shinde and Milind Jadhav also held that the probe conducted by the police in the case was seriously questionable and ”deserves to be reprimanded with strictures”.

The bench acquitted the man on January 27. A detailed order was made available on Saturday.

The accused, identified as Ganesh Mandavkar, a resident of Raigad district in Maharashtra, was handed life imprisonment by a sessions court for murdering a woman by strangulation.

He had challenged the court’s order before the Bombay High Court.

Advocate Ashish Satpute, appointed by the high court from the Legal Aid Panel to represent the accused, had submitted that the investigation by the police to unearth the evidence in the case was ”improper and inadequate”. He further argued that the sessions court’s verdict was based on mere conjectures, without appreciating the facts and circumstantial evidence on record.

As per the prosecution, the accused had killed the woman in 2017 after she refused his demand for sexual favours. Mandavkar allegedly strangled the woman with a towel while another accused, who died during the pendency of the trial, held the victim’s legs. A six-year-old child had allegedly witnessed the incident, as per the prosecution. The bench said the witness had stated that the spot of the incident is at a walking distance of ‘about 10 minutes,’ which, if roughly translated into the distance as the crow flies, would be about 1 to 1.5 kilometres.

From such a long distance, it would have been impossible for this minor six-year-old to witness the alleged incident. This witness has specifically deposed that the deceased was at a far distance and that the site of the incident was not visible from that distance. This statement militates against the theory of this witness being an eyewitness to the incident, the bench said.

”The evidence given by the child witness is demonstrably unreliable, does not inspire any confidence, and is in any case insufficient for convicting the Appellant of the offence under Section 302 IPC,” the bench said.

Further, questioning the probe conducted by the police, the high court held that the investigating officer has not recorded the statements and/or brought forth the relevant parties as prosecution witnesses.

Such investigation smacks of complete incompetence and therefore deserves to be reprimanded with strictures, it added. The bench held that the trial court has erroneously arrived at a conclusion that the evidence given by witnesses corroborate each other on material particulars and shows that the accused had killed the woman.

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