Trial court must examine evidence independently: SC

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The Supreme Court has said that the trial court is ought to examine the evidence against each accused in a 2007 alleged custodial death of a 50-year-old woman in Ahmednagar district, independent of the observations made by the Bombay high court (HC) in Aurangabad in a judgment made on January 13 this year.

“We are only inclined to clarify the obvious in law. Findings and observations by the HC are tentative and not binding ruling on facts. The trial court would independently examine evidence and material against each accused, including the aspect of presumption, if any, which can be relied at the time of framing of charge and subsequent stages,” the SC bench comprising of Justice S Abdul Nazeer and Justice Sanjiv Khanna said on Monday.

The apex court passed this order while dismissing two special leave petitions (SLPs) seeking permission to appeal against the HC ruling and grant of an ad-interim ex-parte stay on the HC ruling.

On January 13, the high court had directed a trial court in Ahmednagar to consider framing of charges of murder, attempt to destroy evidence and criminal conspiracy against seven policemen and one private medical practitioner in relation to the woman’s death.

“One of the seven policemen and the doctor had filed the SLPs in the Supreme Court,” lawyer Nishant Katneshwarkar told TOI.

“As of now, the case is at the stage of framing of charges and the process is expected to commence soon before the trial court,” he added.

In the SLPs, the petitioners had contended, among other things, that while passing the impugned (under challenge) order, the HC did not consider the well settled position of law i.e. it should not embark upon an inquiry whether the allegations in the complaint are likely to be established by evidence or not. This is the function of the trial court when the evidence comes before it, they stated.

The petitioners contended that the HC had “literally conducted a mini trial” and suggested the sessions court to proceed in the trial in a particular way.

“The impugned order depicts that the high court has suggested the trial court to frame charges in a particular way, to consider the evidence on record and to arrive at a conclusion that the death of the deceased was a homicidal death. Considering the law laid down by the SC and reiterated from time to time, the impugned order deserves to be quashed and set aside,” they argued and said that the HC observations would affect the trial and the same would be prejudicial to them.

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