On Thursday, a judgement passed by the Uttarakhand High Court ordering the re-trial of a 2005 custodial case death was upheld by the Supreme Court. The special leave application against the High Court verdict, filed by the accused, was dismissed by the Apex Court bench headed by Justice D Y Chandrachud.
The matter regarding the murder of Raju Ram in 2005 was allegedly committed by certain Uttarakhand revenue police officers. According to the prosecution, the implicated officers dragged the victim out of his bed upon reaching his place of residence on 5th January, 2005. They then kicked and beat him with sticks. Soon after he had been found deceased in a gorge.
Due to lack of evidence, the Trial Court had acquitted the implicated police officers. This judgement was given in 2008 and was challenged by the victim’s wife, Khila Devi, in the High court. A re-trial of the case, on the basis of the revision petition, was allowed by the single bench of Justice Ravindra Maithani on 9th July, 2020. The High Court stated that it was the responsibility of the police officers to justify the circumstances of the death considering the victim had died in their custody.
The Court observed that Section 106 of the Evidence Act is to be applied to the matter. It had been proved by the prosecutors that the victim was taken into custody and his death occurred while in custody. The officers cannot afford to be silent. A satisfactory justification must be provided to the Court. While they were being tried under Section 313 of the Code they denied responsibility for the death and claimed to have been accused falsely. They did not acknowledge arresting the victim.
The High Court also highlighted the failure of the Trial Court to inspect these aspects thoroughly. The SLP moved the Supreme Court, opposing this decision of the High Court. However, the bench was unwilling to entertain the matter. Justice Chandrachud stated that “The trial court cannot remain a bystander. The High Court has done an elaborate job. We will not interfere”
He also said that if the trial proceedings had not commenced, they would have handed the case over to the CBI.