August 10th, 2017
The Bombay High court on Wednesday ordered the Maharashtra government to pay Rs 6 lakh as compensation to a Ludhiana businessman who had to spend 10 years to prove that the man he was charged with murdering in Jogeshwari, a suburb in Mumbai, was alive. He spent another decade on final closure of the case, reported The Times of India.
The division bench of Justices Ranjit More and Sarang Kotwal ordered that the amount be paid to the plaintiff, Jawaharlal Sharma.
The court also slammed Mumbai police for their inefficiency and negligence due to which Sharma had to ensure the pain of criminal prosecution for an offence which might have attracted capital punishment.
“…Because of the apathy, inefficiency and negligence bordering on criminal negligence (of Mumbai cops), Sharma had to endure the agony of facing criminal prosecution for no less an offence than the capital offence,” said the judges, reported The Times of India.
Sharma, a small scale businessman was 37 years old when he was arrested. The court pointed out he had to spend the prime of his life proving his innocence for a crime he didn’t commit.
“This is sheer mental as well as physical torture and agony… in this case, we find that this fundamental right (to life and liberty) was seriously infringed because of callous attitude and inaction on the part of investigating agency,” the judges ruled.
The Mumbai police had discovered a body with the head crushed with a stone near Ismail Yusuf college in Jogeshwari on 14 March 1996. The investigation led the police to talk to some local people who said that the body was of 21-year-old Guddu (Rais Khan). They claimed that he had come from Uttar Pradesh and was employed at a workshop in Jogeshwari. The owner of the workshop further informed the police that Guddu had brought a 30-year-old woman to live with him and people had come from Ludhiana searching for her.
Sharma was arrested on 24 May 1996 after the Jogeshwari police identified him as one of the persons who had come to look for the woman. He was booked with murder and was granted bail in July 1996.
Interestingly, when the police informed Guddu’s family of his death, his mother informed that he was alive. There were other witnesses too who confirmed that Guddu was not dead. Thus began Sharma’s lonely journey to find evidence and prove that Guddu was alive. It was believed that Guddu was in hiding because there was an arrest warrant against him for abducting a woman from Ludhiana in February 1996.
Sharma produced in court voters’ rolls and even property sale documents signed by Guddu after his alleged murder. He himself served warrants issued by the court and in 2006 he managed to produce Guddu in the Mumbai sessions court. Subsequently, the court ordered that Shrama be discharged from the case. He then filed a petition in the high court seeking compensation and investigation against the officers who trapped him in the false case.
The Bombay High court which recently heard the case said that though Sharma’s arrest could be explained because of Guddu’s disappearance, the police’s failure to make any efforts to trace Guddu even after finding out that he was alive could not be justified. “In the present case we find that the investigating officers investigating the case from 1996 to 2006 have shown utter disregard to the cause of justice. We find that the charge sheet was mechanically filed and there were no real efforts made to fix the identity of the dead body and to investigate into the matter,” held the bench.
However, further probe into the case was not ordered by the court as two of the investigation officers had died and one of them had retired.
The Logical Indian community appreciates the Bombay High court compensating for the losses suffered by Jawaharlal Sharma since the past two decades. The Mumbai police’s failure to find the truth in the case is condemnable and we hope that such instances are not repeated in the future.