The Supreme Court on Wednesday acquitted three death row convicts, including one accused of killing his parents, brother and other relatives following a property dispute, saying that the prosecution utterly failed to prove case beyond reasonable doubt.
It said it is pained to observe the manner in which the present case has been dealt with by the trial court as well as by the high court, particularly, when the trial court awarded death penalty to the accused and the high court confirmed it.
The bench comprising Justices L. Nageswara Rao, B.R. Gavai, and B.V. Nagarathna said: “We, therefore, find that the prosecution has utterly failed to prove the case beyond reasonable doubt. The conviction and death sentence imposed on the accused is totally unsustainable in law.”
The three – Momin Khan, his cousin Jaikam Khan, and Jaikam Khan’s son Sajid, were sentenced to death by the trial court, and the Allahabad High Court dismissed their appeals. The wife of one of the accused was also sentenced to death by the trial court, but, the high court had set aside her conviction.
Expressing shock at the trial court findings in the order, the bench, referring to a paragraph in the order, said: “The narration makes for an interesting reading as a story. However, all the observations are nothing but conjectures and surmises, without there being any evidentiary support to them.”
It noted that all statements made with regard to the confession of committing the crime would not be admissible in evidence. “It could thus be seen that the recoveries were made from the places, which were accessible to one and all and as such, no reliance could be placed on such recoveries,” the bench said.
The top court carefully scrutinised the prosecution’s case and concluded that there were many lacunae and inconsistencies in the motive, recovery of blood-stained clothes, recovery of weapons, and the arrest of accused immediately after the crime.
On the aspect of blood-stained clothes worn by the accused while committing the crime, the top court said it is a mystery as to how all the four accused fled from the spot, came back at the said spot, changed their clothes, and again went away.
“It is also a mystery as to how the accused Nos. 3 and 4, who are not residing in Momin Khan’s (AA1) house, had changed their clothes and kept them at Momin Khan’s (AA1) house. This coupled with the fact that the FSL (Forensic Science Laboratory) reports are inconclusive, creates a great shadow of doubt on the genuineness of the said recovery”, said Justice Gavai, who authored the judgment on behalf of the bench.
“The trial court and the high vourt were expected to exercise a greater degree of scrutiny, care and circumspection while directing the accused to be hanged till death,” he said.
Six people were brutally killed on January 23, 2014 – Momin Khan’s father Mausam Khan, mother Asgari, brother Shaukeen Khan, sister-in-law Shanno, nephew Samad, and niece Muskan – and he was accused of their murder following a property dispute.
The accused challenged the Allahabad High Court’s May 18, 2018 judgment, confirmed the judgment of the trial court passed on January 11, 2016.