Jaipur blasts: Plea for stay of acquittal order unheard of, need to see whether HC order was perverse, says SC

The Supreme Court on Wednesday termed as “unheard of” the Rajasthan government’s plea seeking stay of the high court verdict acquitting four men who were handed down death penalty by the trial court in the 2008 Jaipur serial blast case, and said it needs to see whether the judgement was “erroneous” and “perverse”.

Jaipur was rocked by a series of blasts on May 13, 2008 when bombs went off one after another at Manak Chawk Khanda, Chandpole Gate, Badi Chaupad, Chhoti Chaupad, Tripolia Gate, Johri Bazar and Sanganeri Gate. The explosions left 71 people dead and 185 injured.

A bench of Justices BR Gavai, PS Narasimha and Aravind Kumar told Attorney General R Venkataramani, appearing for the Rajasthan government, “Your prayer for stay of the acquittal order is unheard of. To consider your extraordinary prayer, we have to see that the judgement is prima facie erroneous and perverse.”

The bench told Venkataramani, who along with senior advocate Manish Singhvi appeared for the state government, which has filed four separate appeals challenging the acquittal of four accused that when there is acquittal by any court the presumption of innocence of accused gets reinforced.

Senior advocate Rebecca John and other counsel, appearing for those acquitted, referred to the condition imposed upon them that they will register their appearance on a daily basis between 10 am and 12 noon before the Anti-Terror Squad police station in Jaipur.

The bench told the Attorney General that this condition puts “unreasonable restriction” on their movement but added that it will look at it on the next date of hearing.

Venkataramani submitted though they were acquitted by the high court “these people cannot be allowed to move around freely and that’s why we are seeking stay of the verdict till the appeal against the high court verdict is adjudicated”.

Singhvi told the bench that despite it having summoned entire trial court records related to the case, all documents have not reached the top court yet.

The bench then once again directed the registry to summon the original records of the case from the trial court and said the application for stay of the high court verdict will be considered in the second week of January.

The top court also directed the state government to ensure the translation of depositions and other documents in English are incorporated in the case files.

On May 17, the top court had refused to stay the high court order, saying it cannot pass an order for such “drastic action” mechanically without hearing those held not guilty.

The top court had, however, stayed a direction passed in the March 29 judgement of the high court asking the state’s Director General of Police to order an inquiry against the investigating officer and other police personnel involved in the case for the “shoddy probe”.

It had imposed certain conditions and directed that the four people, who were acquitted, be released unless wanted in any other case.

The top court had asked all the four to surrender their passports and, if released from jail, to register their appearance on a daily basis between 10 am and 12 noon before the Anti-Terror Squad police station in Jaipur.

The Rajasthan government had on April 25 filed an appeal challenging the high court verdict. Family members of the victims have also filed appeals against the judgement.

The Rajasthan High Court had on March 29 set aside the lower court verdict awarding death penalty to the four accused and slammed the probe agencies for “shoddy investigation”. The high court had also affirmed the acquittal of a fifth accused by the trial court.

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The court had said it may be true that if accused(s) in a heinous crime go unpunished or are acquitted, a kind of agony and frustration may be caused to society in general and the victim families in particular. However, law does not permit courts to punish the accused on the basis of moral conviction or on suspicion alone.

In December 2019, a special court had awarded death sentence to four men –Mohammad Saif, Mohammad Salman, Saifurrehman and Mohammad Sarvar Azmi — and acquitted Shahbaz Hussain.

While the state government challenged the acquittal of Shahbaz Hussain in the high court, the four awarded capital punishment filed an appeal against the trial court order.

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