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Observing that utmost care should be taken while considering evidence of child witness as they might be tutored, the Bombay High Court has set aside life sentence awarded to a 28-year-old mother of five daughters and her two neighbours on charges of killing her husband.

“Looking at the facts and circumstances of this case and that there is inordinate delay in lodging FIR for which no reasonable or plausible explanation has been given by the prosecution, we are inclined to give benefit of doubt to the three accused,” according to the said justices P D Kode and V K Tahilramani in their recent order.

The judges took into account the evidence of Pooja, the ten-year-old daughter of the couple, whom the prosecution had cited as an eye witnesses.

Bindu, a housewife, and Nanhelal Gupta had five daughters, including Pooja. The family lived in Bhayander. Accused Lambu alias Motilal Prajapati and Chinnu alias Mainuddin Mustafa Ansari were staying in a nearby bakery and often visited Nanhelal’s house on invitation of Bindu. Due to this, there was always a quarrel between husband and wife, according to prosecution.

On October 27, 2006, Bindu called Lambu and Chinnu to her house. The duo saw Nanhelal and Lambu throttled him while Chinnu caught hold of his legs. As a result, Nanhelal died, they alleged.

The prosecution claimed that this was witnessed by Pooja. However, Bindu told her not to disclose the presence of Lambu and Chinnu to anyone and just say that thieves had entered their house. She told Pooja to visit the house of her cousin Mahendra Gupta and inform him. Accordingly, Pooja went to him and narrated the story.

Later, Bindu and her two neighbours were arrested by police. The trio was convicted by a lower court on charges of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment on November 18, 2009 following which they moved the High Court through lawyer Arfan Sait.

The high court held that the prosecution has not proved the case against the appellants beyond reasonable doubt and questioned its claim that Pooja, “the only evidence on which the prosecution is relying upon” was an eye witness when she had categorically stated that she did not know how her father was killed as she was sleeping at that time.

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