New Delhi: The Supreme Court has acquitted a man who was sentenced to death for his alleged involvement in a case wherein four persons, including two minors, were killed in Uttar Pradesh in 2008.
A bench headed by Justice U.U. Lalit and comprising Justices Indu Malhotra and Krishna Murari said the court cannot rely on the version of a child witness.
“In the circumstances, we do not find it safe to rely on the version given by the child witness in the instant case, who was about five years of age when the incident had occurred,” said the bench.
The bench observed that corroboration of the testimony of a child witness is not a rule but a measure of caution and prudence. The top court emphasised that it is difficult to rely on the testimony of the child witness, who is the son of one of the victims, and death sentence cannot be awarded to the accused on this basis.
The bench also acquitted the other two accused who were sentenced to life in the case by a trial court. The Allahabad High Court had upheld the trial court order.
Acquitting the accused for alleged offence under Section 396 of IPC (dacoity and murder), the bench said: “We accept the appeals preferred by accused Hari Om, Sanjay @ Sonu and Saurabh @ Sanju. While setting aside the orders of conviction and sentence recorded against them, we acquit them of all the charges levelled against them.”
The incident had occurred on the day of Divali in 2008. In 2015, Hari Om was sentenced to death by a trial court. His punishment was afformed by the Allahabad High Court in March 2017. However, the high court acquitted the other three accused who were convicted by the trial court.
Discarding the testimony of a key witness in the case, the top court said that in the face of glaring inconsistencies in the version given by the witness and in the face of record as it stood, it would be extremely hazardous to accept his testimony and make it the basis of conviction of accused Hari Om.
“There was no evidence suggesting that the fingerprints were correctly lifted from the house of the deceased, and were duly preserved before sending them for fingerprint expert’s opinion,” the top court observed.