Madhya Pradesh High Court acquitted a former medical student who was wrongly convicted of murder and spent 13 years in jail. The court has awarded him ₹42 Lakh compensation.
The High Court bench comprising Justice Atul Sreedharan and Justice Sunita Yadav noted that the police had carried out the investigation to falsely implicate the appellant accused and termed the prosecution malicious.
“The case reveals a sordid saga of manipulative and preconceived investigation followed by a malicious prosecution, where the police have investigated the case with the sole purpose of falsely implicating the Appellant and perhaps, deliberately protecting a prosecution witness who may have been the actual culprit,” the bench noted.
The bench was hearing an appeal filed by a former medical student who belongs to the Scheduled Tribe community. The appellant had challenged an order where he was convicted of murder and was sentenced to life imprisonment.
He had already spent 13 years in jail. The appellant was arrested at the age of 23 when he was a third-year medical student and now he is 36.
The appellant claimed that he was falsely implicated by a witness in connivance with the police. The High Court bench acquitted him while noting that the conviction was based on the preconceived investigation followed by a malicious prosecution.
Considering the fact that the appellant had lost his future as a doctor and had spent 13 years in jail, the bench awarded him ₹42 Lakh compensation and he is not precluded from pursuing civil remedies.
He was convicted of murdering a girl whom he was allegedly in a relationship with. The appellant contended that prosecution witness 1 (PW 1), the probable perpetrator of the crime, had falsely implicated him.
However, the State argued that the appellant’s claim that he was falsely implicated, arising from the proximity the witness enjoyed with the police, was fanciful and baseless.
The bench noted that the conduct of the police was malicious. it went on to add that the investigation was perhaps done with an intention to shield the witness, but affirmative material against him as he was not on trial.
The investigation should have been transferred to a neutral agency like the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in light of the proximity between the witness and the then Inspector General of Police, the bench said.
The bench set aside his conviction and noted, “This is a case that has been deliberately botched up and the Appellant falsely implicated to protect perhaps, the actual perpetrators of the offence who may have been known to the higher echelons of the state police.”
The MP High court considered the fact that at the time of arrest, the appellant was a fourth-year medical student and the case wasted “thirteen precious years of his life.”
The bench noted that the appellant belonging to Gond Scheduled Tribe could have been connected to being made the victim of this ‘motivated and malicious’ investigation. However, it was made clear that the same could not be stated with certainty.
“But the indignity, discrimination and oppression, that members of the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes face in the state is a “notorious fact” and does not require any extraneous evidence to be led to prove the same,” the court said.
The State could not be clad with the armour of sovereign immunity in a case where the discharge of state functions was with malicious intent, the HC observed.
The bench added, “the appellant’s fate was almost one of eternal damnation since the appellant, despite being marginalised, was on the verge of becoming a full-fledged doctor, a support for his family and a source of inspiration for his community.”
However, these plans were thrown into disarray due to this case, the HC added.
“Therefore, in the unique factual circumstances of this case, we hold that the Appellant is eligible for compensation on account of the violation of his fundamental right to life under Article 21 of the Constitution of India,” the Court noted.
The bench has directed the State to pay ₹42 lakh compensation to the appellant within the next 90 days. It was also made clear that compensation did not preclude him from moving against the State in tort (civil wrong that causes a claimant harm, resulting in legal liability).