‘Only circumstantial evidence, murder case sans witness’, Legal News, ET LegalWorld – Legal Firms

MUMBAI: Acquitting a now 36-year-old man in a murder case of a vada-pav vendor, the Bombay HC said it cannot rule out planting of evidence. The prosecution’s case was that when Shivdutta Sah came delivering the pav early next morning, he found smoke coming from Panjiyara’s room and alerted the landlord.

Panjiyara’s throat was slit and his clothes were on fire. The landlord informed the police and they registered an FIR. The police arrested Sah five days later and said he led them to a public toilet from where some cash and clothes were recovered. Sah had denied leading the police there and also denied other recoveries the police said they had made. Police said it recovered Rs 65,000 from him.

Sah had been given legal aid by counsel Mandar Soman. The counsel tore through the prosecution case and the guilty verdict of a Mumbai sessions court judge. Soman argued that it was a case sans any eyewitness and based completely on circumstantial evidence which then has to tie up and point only to the accused, but it doesn’t. He said the landlord’s deposition was vague, incomplete and inconsistent. The HC bench of of Justices A S Gadkari and Milind Jadhav agreed.

Additional public prosecutor H J Dedhia said the murder conviction was justified with “strong motive” of stealing the Rs 51,000 from the victim.

The HC analysed the evidence and held that the prosecution failed to show necessary proof against Sah, including “importantly” that the denomination of cash recovered was Rs 1000 and Rs 500, with no evidence whether they were the same as what allegedly went missing.

The court said the chain of circumstances was incomplete and he was “wrongly convicted” by the trial court.

The HC said “his conviction was entirely based on “victim’s ID card, clothes and Rs 20,000 being found in a public toilet, but the theory of it being planted there cannot be ruled out and police failed in its duty to record statements of those present in the toilet when recovery was made. An independent witness (pancha) said police had themselves gone inside and come out with the clothes and money. HC said the pancha’s statement inspires no confidence and “hence recovery is doubtful and cannot be accepted”.

The HC also said that “in the absence of material evidence, it cannot be assumed that due to extreme poverty the Appellant (Sah) was compelled to commit the crime and stole money from Bharat when there is an apparent mismatch” in money possessed by victim and that recovered.

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