Delhi HC awards Rs 50K compensation to acquitted accused for “terrible investigation” in murder case

The Delhi High Court has awarded Rs 50,000 each as compensation, to be borne by the State, to two accused who were acquitted in a murder case, saying it was a “classic example of terrible investigation” which made them suffer the ordeal of long trial and undergo incarceration for a crime they never committed.

A bench headed by Justice Suresh Kumar Kait, dealing with the State’s appeal against the acquittal, cautioned the prosecution agencies to conduct investigation in a prudent manner, and said trial courts are expected to judiciously assess the material so no innocent has to bear the torment of incarceration.

The case involved the death of a two-year-old girl child in 2014 for which her father and paternal grandmother were put on trial.

The child was declared dead when she was brought to GTB hospital by the grandmother after she fell in the house.

An FIR was registered on the complaint by the mother who had earlier given the custody of the deceased child to her estranged husband.

The trial court refused to convict the accused of murder but held them guilty of the offence under Section 23 (Punishment for cruelty to child) of the Juvenile Justice Act and sentenced them to rigorous imprisonment of six months each with fine of Rs 10,000 each.

The bench, also comprising Justice Neena Bansal Krishna, appreciated the “wisdom” of the trial court in holding them not guuilty of murder under Section 302 IPC and said, “The unfair investigation has made the accused suffer the ordeal of long trial and undergo the sentence for the crime which was never committed by them”.

The court observed that “the first and primary responsibility to take care of the child is of the parents and not grandparents” and that it was “misplaced to assume” that the deceased child was deliberately neglected, and so rejected their conviction under the Juvenile Justice Act as well.

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“This court would like to note that the settled position of law… is that the culprit may not be permitted to escape and innocent may not be roped and punished. The present case is a classic example of terrible investigation at the hands of investigating agency of the prosecution, where despite lacking material substance against the respondents/accused, the prosecution floated the trial,” the court said in a recent order.

“In the case under consideration, we find that no word can comfort the agony of respondents-accused; however, ends of justice would be met if respondents are compensated at the cost of prosecution. We hereby direct the appellant-State to pay compensation of Rs.50,000/- each to both the accused within four weeks,” ordered the court.

The court also cautioned the prosecution department to not file appeals in a casual manner where there is no material on record to establish that the trial court has acted in total disarray.

Such appeals, it said, cause loss to the public exchequer, loss of precious public time of the courts, and energy and time of the prosecution which otherwise can be utilised for a good cause.

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