The Rajasthan High Court, Jaipur Bench has recently acquitted four convicts involved in the 2008 Jaipur Blasts case holding that apparent manipulations and fabrications were done during the investigation. The Court has further affirmed the acquittal of a fifth accused by the Trial Court.

The Court has also directed the Director General of Police to initiate an appropriate enquiry or disciplinary proceedings against the erring officers of the investigating team.

A Division Bench comprising Justice Pankaj Bhandari and Justice Sameer Jain held, “It is apparent that the investigation was not fair and it appears that nefarious means were employed by the Investigating Agencies, material witnesses required to unfold the events were withheld and apparent manipulations and fabrications have been done during the investigation. We therefore deem it proper, in interest of society, justice and morality, to direct the Director General of Police, Rajasthan, to initiate appropriate enquiry/disciplinary proceedings against the erring officers of the investigating team.”

The Bench directed the convicts to furnish a personal bond of Rs. 5,00,000/- within two weeks. However, in his separate and concurring opinion, Justice Sameer Jain penned down a few of his own views in addition to the opinion of Justice Pankaj Bhandari.

“As the accused were given death sentence, a very careful, conscious and meticulous approach was necessarily required to be made. It is well settled that the prosecution must stand or fall on its own legs and that it cannot derive any strength from the weakness of the defence”, he said.

Advocate Syed Saddat Ali appeared for the accused while Additional Government Advocate Rekha Madnani argued on behalf of the State in this matter.

Brief Facts -

On May 13, 2008, a series of blasts went off one after another at Manak Chawk Khanda, Chandpole Gate, Badi Chaupad, Chhoti Chaupad, Tripolia Gate, Johri Bazar, and Sanganeri Gate, Jaipur. The explosions led to the death of 71 people and injured 185 people.

A total of eight FIRs were registered with regard to such an incident. A day later, some of the TV Channels and news agencies claimed to have received an email in which Indian Mujahideen Organization was said to have taken the responsibility for the said blasts. The following were the points for consideration before the High Court:

1. Whether on May 13, 2008, at Phool walon ka khanda, Choti Chaupar, a blast took place in which 2 persons died and 15 persons were injured?

2. Whether Shahbaz sent the mail from Sahibabad and a co-conspirator?

3. Whether Saifur @ Saifurrehman planted the bomb on a bicycle at Phool walon ka khanda, Choti Chaupar, Jaipur?

4. Whether Bill Books establishes the sale of bicycles to the accused and whether the blasts took place on the bicycles sold to the accused?

5. Whether Mohammad Saif, Salman and Sarvar Azmi are co-conspirators?

The High Court after hearing the contentions of the counsel observed, “It is to be noted that no evidence has been adduced to establish that Mohammad Saif, Saifurrehman, Salman and Sarvar Azmi were known to each other or there was any meeting of mind prior to the date of bomb blasts. The prosecution has been unable to establish either agreement to do an illegal act or a concert of action to cause an illegal act. Thus, the prosecution has utterly failed to establish the requisites of Section 120-A of IPC which defines criminal conspiracy. Further, anything said by a co-conspirator is relevant under Section 10 of the Indian Evidence Act and in this regard, State has relied on the disclosure statement of Mohammad Saif.”

The Court said that any disclosure statement made by a co-accused is admissible against a co-conspirator only if the disclosure is made during the subsistence of the conspiracy and that the disclosure statement of Mohammad Saif in the case was made many months after the bomb blasts and no conspiracy was subsisting as on the date of disclosure.

“… in the disclosure statement, generic muslim names were used and they do not disclose the identify of the co-conspirators. … Admittedly, the case rests on circumstantial evidence and till arrest of Mohammad Saif, the prosecution had no link or clue with regard to the bomb blasts. The cases of all the accused as per the prosecution version is so interlinked that each chain is required to be established”, asserted the Court.

The Court further asserted that none of the links in the chain is established so as to bring home the conviction of the accused, rather not a single link has been established before it.

“Since the prosecution has failed to establish beyond reasonable doubt the guilt of Mohammad Sarvar Azmi, Saif and Mohammad Salman, they cannot be held guilty as co-conspirators in the present case. Accordingly, this point is also decided against the State and in favour of accused. … we are not unaware of the degree of agony and frustration that may be caused to the society in general and the families of the victims in particular by the fact that a heinous crime like this goes unpunished but, then law does not permit the Courts to punish the accused on the basis of moral conviction or on suspicion alone. It is always the burden of the prosecution to prove their case beyond reasonable doubt on the basis of acceptable evidence”, the Court held.

In his concurrent opinion, Justice Sameer Jain noted, “At the outset, the well established rule of criminal jurisprudence of “fouler the crime, higher the proof” is required to be noted. In the instant case, the life and liberty of convicts, who are young individuals, is at stake. … wherever there are two possibilities, one reasonably indicating commission of crime and the other reasonably indicating innocence of accused(s), the accused(s) must be given the benefit of doubt.”

Justice Sameer said that as the prosecution failed to prove the charges, it is left with no alternative but to acquit the accused.

“It may be true that if accused(s) in a heinous crime go unpunished or are acquitted, a kind of agony and frustration may be caused to the society in general and to the family of the victims in particular, however the law does not permit the Courts to punish the accused on the basis of moral conviction or on suspicion alone”, he observed.

He also observed that the investigation agency miserably failed in the discharge of its duties and performed poorly. He said that the failure on the part of the Investigation Agency frustrated the case of the prosecution and the evidence so recorded is not fulfilling the chain of evidence.

“… we hold that the Investigation Agency in the given case should be made responsible/accountable for their negligent, cursory and inefficient actions. In the given case, for the reasons stated above, in spite of the case being of heinous nature, 71 persons losing their lives and 185 persons sustaining injuries, causing unrest in the lives of every citizen, not just in the city of Jaipur, but all across the country, we deem it appropriate to direct the Director General of Rajasthan Police to initiate appropriate Enquiry/Disciplinary Proceedings against the erring officers of the Investigating Team”, held the Court.

The Court directed the State, the Chief Secretary in particular, to look into the matter in the larger public interest. It concluded, “We fear this isn’t the first case to suffer due to failure of investigation agencies and if things are allowed to continue the way they are, this certainly won’t be the last case in which administration of justice is affected due to shoddy investigation.”

Accordingly, the Court set aside and quashed the judgment of conviction and acquitted the accused.

Cause Title- State of Rajasthan v. Saifur @ Saifur Rehman Ansari

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