HC gives ‘benefit of doubt’ to 3 murder accused, acquits them after 8 years

SRINAGAR: Granting them benefit of doubt, the J&K high court’s division bench has acquitted three persons, arrested over eight years ago for murdering a man in Shopian district.
The division bench of justices Mohammad Yaqoob Mir and Ali Mohammad Magrey was hearing an appeal filed by three accused challenging a sessions court Shopian order of October 2013, convicting and sentencing them for murdering the man, Mohammad Yasin Wani of Heerpora Shopian.
According to prosecution the accused, Rashid Wani, his son Sajad Ahmad Wani, both residents of Heerpora Shopian and Rafiq Takad of Rajouri, under a conspiracy killed Mohammad Yasin Wani when he had gone to a local mosque for offering Isha (late evening prayers).
The accused, as per police, had smashed Yasin with some sharp edged weapon resulting into his on the spot death following a dispute over the engagement of deceased’s daughter with Rashid’s son, Mukhatar Ahmad Wani.
According to police, Rashid had offered money to Thakur for killing Yasin and on the fateful night of on 1 June 2007 reached the mosque together to kill him.
Rashid, the police said, had caught the Yasin’s by his collar while Thakur repeatedly smashed his head with axe while Sajad attacked him with danda (big stick), resulting into his death.
Rashid and Thakur were arrested immediately while Sajad surrendered later. Trial culminated into their conviction and sentence to rigorous imprisonment for life by the session court and fine of Rs 50,000 each. In default of payment, they were ordered to undergo rigorous imprisonment of further one year.
“Whether the prosecution (police) has been able to prove its case, same depends upon the testimony of three star witnesses—Sheeraz Ahmad Wani, Rayees Ahmad Wani and Abdul Hamid Wani. Before appreciating the deposition of the witnesses, it has to be borne in mind that the depositions of relative witnesses have to be examined with great care and circumspection,” the division bench said.
Sheeraz, the court observed, is Yasin’s nephew, Hamid brother and Rayees is also his relative.
“Trial court has ignored the contradictory depositions of witnesses coupled with the statement of investigating officer and then the position of demonstration, processions which continued for some time in the village demanding actual identity of the assailants,” the court said, observing that law has to be applied on the fact position of the particular case.
“When the facts are shaky, deposition are such which are not enough to inspire confidence more particularly when the witnesses are relative witnesses, more care is required to be taken while appreciating their depositions. Otherwise basic occurrence has not been seen by anyone,” the court said.
“Base of the case has become doubtful vis-à-vis identity of assailants and it shall be totally unsafe to convict the accused persons they deserve to be granted benefit of doubt,” the division bench said set aside the trial court’s court.
“The suspicious position of the case would suggest that the murder has been committed but actual criminals have remained to be exposed. On the strength of the depositions of the witnesses, position of which is shaky, it shall be totally unsafe to hold the accused persons guilty and convict them,” the court said and ordered the release of accused if not wanted in any other case.