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24 Oct 2021, 05:03 HRS IST
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  • HC acquits 2 accused of killing taxi driver in 2012; says probe "clumsy, prosecution inept"

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12:19 HRS IST

Kochi, Sep 19 (PTI) The Kerala High Court has set aside the conviction of two of the five people accused of killing a taxi driver in 2012, saying the investigation was "clumsy", prosecution was "inept" and the trial court was "overzealous" to convict them in the absence of evidence.

"This is a classic case in which the clumsy investigation and inept prosecution conspired together to derail the case against the accused. The impugned judgment is the product also of an overzealous Court, who went on to convict, even in the absence of any evidence," the high court said.

According to the prosecution, the unsuspecting driver took a trip for his taxi, little knowing that it would be his last one, and his body was found on the next day, beaten, strangulated and incinerated.

It had claimed that the murder was part of a conspiracy to rob the taxi car - a crime for gain.

The high court, however, said that the case was set up on solely circumstantial evidence with no ocular evidence.

"We fail to understand how such a charge was made out with narration of the role of each of the accused. Well, one could imagine the accused speaking to the investigator when in custody. But if the prosecution is shaped on that and the evidence collected only on that; then of course the result would be disastrous as in this case.

"When a confession made by the accused cannot be relied upon by courts of law, the investigators should tread carefully in shaping the case and collecting evidence," the high court said.

The court said that what the prosecution managed to establish was that the main accused had hired the taxi of the deceased for a trip to Pooppara, a village in Idukki district, and on the next day the latter was found dead and his vehicle was missing.

"The mere fact that accused 1 was seen travelling in the taxi car on the previous day cannot be an incriminating circumstance to accuse him of the murder and theft of the car, which obviously happened on the early morning of the next day.

"We have found that the recoveries have not been proved and despite various witnesses turning hostile, the Sessions Judge relied on the evidence of the Investigating Officer (IO). The evidence of the IO itself is shaky and lacking in details," the high court said.

It said that whether the recovered car was that of the deceased was not established, "which lays bare the incompetence of the prosecution".

It also said that there was also no scientific evidence to connect the accused with the crime.

"As we noted at the outset, the incompetence of the investigation and the prosecution resulted in no circumstance being established against the appellants herein. The (trial) court too was a silent spectator, anxious to convict even when there was a complete lack of evidence," it said.

The high court also noted that according to the medical evidence, while the deceased was bludgeoned to death, he was set ablaze before he breathed his last, "a brutal homicide without doubt".

"..the investigation of which (murder) should have been carried out with a little more care and caution and of course, more skillfully and a lot more intelligently," the high court said while allowing the appeals of the two accused.

Of the remaining three accused, one had died, another was facing trial before a juvenile justice board and the last one (accused no. 4) has not preferred an appeal yet.

The high court directed that the acquitted accused be released forthwith, if not wanted in any other case, and if they are out on bail, then their bail bonds shall stand cancelled.

"A certified copy of the judgment shall be issued to the Member Secretary, Kerala State Legal Services Authority (KeLSA), who shall instruct the concerned Secretary, District Legal Services Authority to consider the payment of compensation to the family of the deceased as per the Kerala Victim Compensation Scheme, 2017," it said.

It also directed the Member Secretary, KeLSA to conduct enquiries as to the prison in which the 4th accused is incarcerated and enable an appeal, if he so desires.

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