In a perfect example of justice delayed but not denied, Bombay High Court decides a 20 years old criminal case by acquitting the accused posthumously after 18 years.
On 21st November 1998, an employee of Maharashtra State Electricity Board Mr. Balasaheb Jagtap confronted a conductor about a complain he had lodged against him at state transport bus stand in Satara. It was alleged that Jagtap had punched the conductor which led to bleeding from his head. Trial Court in the year 2000 found Jagtap guilty of causing hurt and imprisoned him for a term of three months and the same was affirmed by the Sessions Court in 2004. Jagtap left for his heavenly abode in 2004 while the matter was still pending in the Sessions Court. On a special request, his son was granted the permission to carry forward the petition. Son of Balasaheb Jagtap appealed against the verdict of the Sessions Court in Bombay High Court. Following was the main issue before the High Court.
Can legal heirs of the accused appeal against conviction order after his death?
Judgment and Proceedings
The prosecution submitted that both the subordinate courts had upheld the conviction. Defense Counsels Advocates Dilip Bodake and Umesh Yadav brought to the attention of the court that there was no independent eye-witness of incident in-spite of it happening in a public place. It was also submitted that according to the medical report, the injury was caused by a hard and blunt object and keeping in mind the job of the victim, he could have injured himself by falling off the bus. Furthermore, it was also discovered that the conductor was caught misappropriating the money charged for tickets from passengers because of which he was dismissed from the service.
Bombay High Court after listening to both the sides acquitted the accused and directed that if any fine was paid by accused same should be returned to the family of the accused. The Hon’ble judge Justice Prakash Naik said that in light of the animosity between the complainant and the accused, and the contradiction in the evidence, a doubt was created about the allegations. The trial court ought not to have convicted the accused of the offense. Furthermore, The Court also added that under section 394 of the Criminal Procedure Code, every appeal in a criminal case abated on the death of an accused. An exception occurs if an appeal is filed against a conviction, then within 30 days of the death accused, a close relative can seek permission to continue the appeal.
Learning of the case
From this case, we learn that under section 394 of Criminal Procedure Code allows a person to be acquitted even after his death provided his near relatives continue the proceedings.