Can’t discard case in absence of independent witnesses: Court

 A case of the prosecution cannot be discarded if people are not willing to become witnesses, a Delhi court has said while refusing to set aside the jail term awarded to a man for snatching a woman’s mobile phone.

Additional Sessions Judge S K Sharma, while dismissing the appeal of the convict against a six month jail term given to him for the offence under section 379 (theft) of the IPC, said the trial court had already taken a lenient view regarding the quantum of sentence.

“In my view, the Trial Court has also taken very lenient view against the appellant regarding the quantum of sentence and therefore, the order on sentence does not require any interference by this court and the same is upheld,” the judge said.

Rejecting the contention of the convict that the rickshaw puller in whose vehicle the victim was going home when the incident took place, was not examined during trial, the court said it was not fatal to the prosecution case.

“So far as joining the rickshaw puller in investigation and examining him in the Court is concerned, it is not fatal to the prosecution case for the reason that independent witnesses are not agreeing to become witness. This cannot be a ground to discard the prosecution case,” it said.

According to the prosecution, the woman had boarded a rickshaw at New Ashok Nagar metro station on February 14, 2013 to go home when convict Ravi Kumar suddenly snatched her mobile phone from her hand.

A trial court had in October 2017 held him guilty and sentenced him to six months imprisonment.

In his appeal challenging the order, Kumar had contended that the woman’s testimony was unreliable and no independent witness was examined during trial.

Source : PTI

Depute senior officer to trace missing witnesses: Bombay HC

Depute senior officer to trace missing witnesses: Bombay HC
Depute senior officer to trace missing witnesses: Bombay HC

The Bombay High Court has asked the Maharashtra Director General of Police to depute a senior officer not below the rank of Deputy Director General of Police to trace the 11 missing former inmates of Thane Central prison, who were witness to custodial death of a fellow inmate in 1996.

The direction was given by a division bench headed by Justice Abhay Oka yesterday on a public interest litigation alleging that witnesses in the case were not traceable and had gone missing because of which the trial had not progressed in the last few years.

“We direct the DGP of Maharashtra to appoint an officer not below the rank of Deputy DGP to trace the witnesses,” said the bench.

The high court also ordered that an inquiry should be conducted against jail officers who were in-charge at the time of incident and if it is found that they were allegedly involved in dereliction of duty then action should be initiated against them.

According to police, the 11 witnesses, who were in Thane jail, had been released after their term expired and are now not traceable.

Public Prosecutor Mankkuwar Deshmukh informed the court that the crime branch police had submitted their addresses and efforts would be made to trace them.

The case pertains to Robert Almeida, who was arrested by police for assaulting his father in their suburban Vikhroli house while he was under the influence of alcohol. He was confined to Thane Central prison on August 30, 1996.

Two days later, he was found dead with injury marks on his body. Post Mortem revealed he died of brain hemorrhage.

However, a police inquiry revealed that he was mentally unstable and had hurt himself.

However, an activist, N R Soni, wrote a letter to the high court referring to three deaths in the prison. His letter was suo motu (on its own) converted into a PIL by the High Court and is being heard now.

The letter alleged that Almeida was thrashed by police with belts and sharp objects as a result of which he died.

( Source – PTI )

‘Accused would hinder probe can’t be ground for bail’

In a case the Bombay High Court has observed that the bail cannot be rejected to an accused only on the grounds that he would interfere in the investigation and influence witnesses.

Justice R C Chavan, while granting bail to an advocate Deepak Sharma observed that the sessions court could not have rejected bail only on the ground that Sharma would interfere in the probe.

Sharma was arrested on January 4 this year by suburban Bhandup police for allegedly collaborating with his client, an accused in a cheating case, and forcibly securing possession of the premises of the complainant.

Sharma’s bail plea has been rejected by the sessions court on the ground that his release would cause interference in investigation and influence of witnesses.

It has been also held by the court that granting bail at a juncture where probe was still on would jeopardise and demoralise not only the complainant and witnesses but also the investigation.

Justice Chavan, however, granted Sharma bail and observed, “This cannot be a ground for detaining the applicant (Sharma) in custody. This could be taken care of by imposing strict conditions on the applicant.”

The High Court while granting Sharma bail on a personal bond of Rs 25,000 directed him to appear before the Bhandup police station on alternate days for a month.

Witnesses turning hostile disturbing trend: SC

The Supreme Court has expressed concern over the recent trend of witnesses turning hostile in high profile cases, saying this “major disturbing” factor faced by courts is eroding people’s faith in the judicial system.

 “Witnesses turning hostile is a major disturbing factor faced by the criminal courts in India”.

 “Reasons are many for the witnesses turning hostile, but of late, we see, especially in high profile cases, there is a regularity in the witnesses turning hostile, either due to monetary consideration or by other tempting offers which undermine the entire criminal justice system and people carry the impression that the mighty and powerful can always get away from the clutches of law thereby, eroding people’s faith in the system,” Justice S Radhakrishnan said.

 The court’s remark came while passing its verdict in the infamous BMW hit-and-run case, convicting 34-year-old Sanjeev Nanda under the stringent provision of culpable homicide not amounting to murder for mowing down six people, including three policemen, with his car in south Delhi in 1999.

 In this case three key prosecution witnesses including the injured witness, who was present on the spot, turned hostile.

 Justice S Radhakrishnan said that courts should not remain as a mute spectator when witnesses turn hostile and every effort should be made to bring home the truth.

 “Courts, however, cannot shut their eyes to the reality. If a witness becomes hostile to subvert the judicial process, the courts shall not stand as a mute spectator and every effort should be made to bring home the truth.

 “Criminal judicial system cannot be overturned by those gullible witnesses who act under pressure, inducement or intimidation. Further, Section 193 of the IPC imposes punishment for giving false evidence but is seldom invoked,” the court said.

 The apex court had on Saturday refused to enhance the two- year jail term, already served by Nanda, but had convicted him under the stringent provision of 304 Part II (culpable homicide not amounting to murder) of IPC, which prescribes maximum punishment of 10 years.

 It had partially set aside the Delhi high court’s order, which had held Nanda guilty under lenient provision of 304 A of the IPC for rash and negligent driving, but had upheld the two-year jail term that was awarded to him.

Source: PTI

Ready to name more witnesses, Gujarat cop tells probe panel

Gujarat’s senior IPS officer Sanjeev Bhatt told the Nanavati-Mehta commission that he could name other witnesses who would vouchsafe his presence at a crucial meeting called by Chief Minister Narendra Modi Feb 27,2002 in addition to the names he mentioned in his affidavit made before the Supreme Court.

 

“I will give the names of the witnesses only when asked by the Supreme Court since the issue was pending before the apex court”, he said in his disposition before the judicial enquiry committee probing the 2002 riots.

 

Bhatt, who stated that at the meeting Modi had not only “directed” top police officers to “allow the Hindus to vent their anger”, but also failed to issue any instruction even in the two subsequent meetings held on the next day.

 

The meeting was held at the chief minister’s residence Feb 27, 2002 evening after the train carnage at the Godhra railway station early in the morning that left 58 people dead.

 

Bhatt was emphatic that he had attended all three meetings.

 

“The chief minister had called two meetings on February 28, the day of the bandh call, one in the forenoon and the other in late afternoon and I had attended both the meetings in the company of my superior, the additional director general of police and state intelligence chief G.C. Raigar.”

 

He claimed that by the time the second meeting was held, the intelligence department had “real-time information” about the mob build-up and the tense situation in the Gulberg Society in Ahmedabad.

 

Bhtt said that he had personally informed the chief minister about the build-up in Gulberg Society, the threat to the residents there, including to the former Congress member of the Lok Sabha, Ehsan Jafri, and the “complete police inaction” across the city.

 

But the chief minister did not give any instruction for protective action, Bhatt said.

 

He also claimed that the state director general of police (DGP), K. Chakravarthi, was present when he informed the chief minister about the situation in Gulberg.

 

Referring to the Feb 27 meeting, Bhatt stated that both the then state DGP and the Ahmedabad police commissioner, P.C. Pande, tried to convince the chief minister about the inherent dangers in the BJP supporting the Viswa Hindu Parishad’s protest bandh call given for the next day as it would amount to the government supporting it.

 

Similarly the two top officers also tried to dissuade the chief minister from bringing the bodies of the train carnage victims from Godhra to Ahmedabad and from taking out the funeral procession with the bodies.

 

Pande even told the chief minister that this could lead to an incendiary situation, Bhatt said.

 

He added that he had also briefed the chief minister about the large scale mobilisation by the Sangh Parivar even in interior areas and the possibility of large scale violence.

 

The chief minister was also briefed about the paucity of police force to deal with the situation emerging out of such a course of action, Bhatt said.

 

Bhatt Monday moved an application seeking directions to authorities to allow him access to requisite and relevant information, records and documents of the state control room and the Intelligence Bureau, and the offices of the director general and inspector general of police for the period from Feb-Sept 17, 2002.

If prosecution case solid, hostile witnesses don’t matter: Court

The Supreme Court has held that even if all witnesses turn hostile a trial court can convict and sentence the accused, if the prosecution is successful in establishing their guilt.

If the prosecution case is strong then ‘eye witnesses turning hostile, do not, in any way, create a dent in the case of the prosecution’, said the apex court bench of Justice P. Sathasivam and Justice Anil R. Dave in their judgment Wednesday.

The court declined to accept the contention of counsel for murder accused Rameshbhai Mohanbhai Koli and others that since all the eye witnesses examined by the prosecution turned hostile, their statement could not be relied upon in the absence of other cogent, convincing and reliable evidence.

Speaking for the bench, Justice Sathasivam said ‘…all the eye-witnesses examined on the prosecution side have en bloc turned hostile due to influence and pressure of accused persons which included a sitting legislator of the ruling party’.

In the present case, chairman of Morbi Nagrik Bank Prakashbhai Raveshia was murdered over a decade ago, the prosecution said.

He along with bank director Ashokbhai Laljibhai Kathrani came out of their bank building and soon after, appellant Koli approached Prakashbhai Raveshia and inquired about loan facility. Then he exhorted other appellants to attack Raveshia.

Raveshia suffered injuries on account of the knife-attack and succumbed to injuries.

The trial court awarded life imprisonment to Koli and three others. This was confirmed by the Gujarat High Court. The apex court too upheld the conviction and sentencing of the appellants by the trial court in 2004.

The judgment said: ‘On going through the entire materials, the chain of circumstances, we are satisfied that the prosecution has been successful in bringing home the guilt of the appellant herein for the commission of murder of Prakashbhai Raveshia and the eye witnesses turning hostile, do not, in any manner, create a dent in the case of the prosecution.’

Referring to the earlier pronouncements of the apex court, the judgment said that ‘witnesses may lie but circumstances do not’.

Gulberg society massacre witnesses’ plea rejected

The Gujarat High Court Thursday rejected a petition by witnesses of Gulberg society massacre in Ahmedabad during the 2002 Gujarat riots, seeking to summon some government officials as witnesses and cross-examine them.

Pleading that former MP Ehsan Jafri had talked with some top officials and highly-placed people to seek their help before he was killed by a mob, Imtiyazkhan Pathan and others had sought examining of policemen and officers, fire brigade officials and Ahmedabad city police control room wireless operator and other staff on duty on the day in question.

Such questioning would also throw light on the role of the then joint commissioner of police, M.K. Tandon in this incident, they contended.

However Justice Akil Kureshi rejected the plea. Earlier a lower court had also turned down their plea.

A total of 69 people including Jafri were killed in the incident.

Don’t doubt cops who appear as witnesses, courts told

The Delhi High Court Monday said that courts should not doubt the evidence given by police officers as witnesses in a case.

The court’s observation was made while upholding life imprisonment awarded to a man, for killing his wife two years back, on the basis of statements of police personnel.

A division bench of Justice V.K. Jain and Justice B.D. Ahmed said: “The presumption that a person acts honestly and legally applies as much in favour of police officers as of others. It is not proper and permissible to doubt the evidence of police officers.”

The court relied upon the evidence of police officers after other witnesses turned hostile and no other witness turned up in the murder case in which the convict stabbed his wife to death.

“Judicial approach must not be to distrust and suspect their (policemen’s) evidence on oath without good and sufficient ground thereof,” the court said.

The court made the remarks on an appeal filed by Ram Dass challenging his conviction and sentence of life imprisonment in the murder case of his wife.

He had contended that the trial court had wrongly convicted him in the murder case as there was no witness to the incident and the court relied on the circumstantial evidence presented by police on the basis of their investigation.