Upholding the acquittal of four accused in the 2001 Kanpur riots case, the Supreme Court on Monday blasted the Uttar Pradesh Police for its shoddy probe into the violence in which a senior officer lost his life and said 'lapses' in the investigation have 'disabled' the prosecution.
The top court said that the case suffers from multiple investigative lapses and flaws which fortified the presumption of innocence in favour of the accused.
A bench of justices N V Ramana and M M Shantangaudar found lapses in the police probe on seven counts including an inordinate delay in conducting Test Identification Parade (TIP), discrepancies related to forensic, post-mortem reports and place of occurrence of the incident, recovery of weapon and examination of the material witness.
"Although we acknowledge the gravity of the offence alleged against the accused¬-respondents and the unfortunate fact of a senior official losing his life in furtherance of his duty, we cannot overlook the fact that the lapses in the investigation have disabled the prosecution to prove the culpability of the accused," the bench said in its order.
The apex court upheld the order of Allahabad high court which acquitted all the accused, saying 'in our opinion, there exists no perversity in the judgment of the high court'.
"The accused cannot be expected to relinquish his innocence at the hands of an inefficacious prosecution, which is ridden with investigative deficiencies. The benefit of doubt arising out of such inefficient investigation must be bestowed upon the accused," the bench said.
The apex court said that the cumulative effect of the investigative lapses has fortified the presumption of innocence in favour of the accused.
"Further, in the absence of compelling reasons, this court is not keen to entertain these appeals challenging the order of acquittal," the bench said.
It said that police have failed to link the chain of circumstances so as to dispel the cloud of doubt about the culpability of the accused.
"It is a well settled principle that a suspicion, however grave it may be, cannot take place of proof, i.e., there is a long distance between 'may be' and 'must be', which must be traversed by the prosecution to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt," the bench said.
The state government has moved the apex court challenging the order of High Court dated May 29, 2009 by which it had acquitted all the accused.
The high court had reversed the order of trial court dated January 22, 2004, which had convicted four persons in the case.
According to the FIR, on March 16, 2001, around 200-300 rioters allegedly looted and set afire several houses under Moolganj police station in Kanpur district.
To control the situation, Additional District Magistrate (ADM) Chandra Prakash Pathak along with a police party rushed to the site.The rioters allegedly fired at the police party in which Pathak sustained bullet injury while his orderly Ram Chandra was grievously injured.
Pathak later succumbed to his injury.