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An accused facing trial should not be allowed to take advantage of slipshod investigation by police, the Supreme Court has said, cautioning judges against acquitting an offender if the prosecution case stood unshaken.

“This court has repeatedly observed that the court must not get influenced by the inefficiency of the investigating agency and acquit the accused if the core of the prosecution case is undented and established,” said the apex court bench of Justice Aftab Alam and Justice Ranjana Prakash Desai.

Pronouncing the recent judgment, Justice Desai said that an accused getting away with the inefficient investigation by police would amount to “putting a premium on inefficiency at the cost of cause of justice”.

The court said this while upholding the conviction of Joginder and Varun Kumar accused of murdering Pushpinder in the corridor of Ahir College in Rewari in Haryana April 7, 1999.

Rejecting their plea, the apex court said that despite police inefficiency and carelessness “we find that in the instant case, the core of the prosecution case or the substratum of the prosecution case has remained”.

The court quashed the July 11, 2006 Punjab and Haryana High Court order directing a third accused to undergo life imprisonment. He was a juvenile at the time of committing the offence.

While directing the release of juvenile accused, who at the time of the incident was 17 years five months and 23 days old, the court said that he should have got the benefit of the Juvenile Justice Act .

The accused earlier sought to dent the prosecution case on the basis of some lapses in police investigation and the statement of area police station chief which allegedly contradicted the testimony of witness Ram Chander Yadav.

The court observed that Station House Officer Raja Ram made a statement that was contrary to the deposition by the witness “to cover up his inefficiency”.

Since the trial court convicted the three accused in 2000 on the strength of a single witness, the apex court said: “It is well settled that conviction can be based on the evidence of a sole eyewitness if his evidence inspires confidence. This witness has meticulously narrated the incident and supported the prosecution case. We find him to be a reliable witness.”

The judges noted that main complainant Karambir Yadav was won over by the accused and doubts were sought to be cast upon the acts of courage of witness Ram Chander Yadav who held the two accused while they were attacking the victim.

It was contended that Ram Chander Yadav could not have held two people together because he was disabled and had just one hand.

Noting that Ram Chander Yadav’s left arm was upto the elbow, the apex court said: “Courage and strength are qualities which differ from person to person and one cannot discount the version of Ram Chander Yadav on the basis of surmises.”

“It appears to us that while the complainant, because of lack of courage resiled from his statement, Ram Chander Yadav has courageously stuck to it. This speaks volumes,” the judgment said.

The court also pointed to “an unholy attempt to subvert the (trial) court proceedings” when Ram Chander Yadav’s father Ram Singh moved an application before the court saying that his son “had not witnessed the incident; that his name was cited because he is a friend of the deceased and that the complainant had kidnapped him”.

Ram Chander Yadav denied the story when the trial court sought clarification from him.

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