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SC acquits man facing death sentence

  New Delhi

A man, who was awarded death sentence for his alleged involvement in a case in which four persons, including two minor children, were killed, has been acquitted by the Supreme Court which said it was not safe to rely on the version of a minor witness who was five-year-old at the time of incident.

The apex court referred to certain “inconsistencies” from the record and said it is difficult to place reliance upon the testimony of minor child, who was the son of one of the victims, and his version cannot be made the basis of conviction of accused who was awarded capital punishment for the 2008 case.

A bench headed by Justice U U Lalit also acquitted two other accused, who were facing life term in the case after their conviction by the trial court was upheld by the Allahabad High Court, giving them the benefit of doubt.

The bench, also comprising justices Indu Malhotra and Krishna Murari, sets aside the orders convicting these three accused in the case for the alleged offence under section 396 (dacoity with murder) of the Indian Penal Code.

A trial court had in July 2015 awarded death penalty to Hari Om after convicting him in the case. Later, the high court had affirmed his conviction and death sentence imposed upon him.

The high court, in its judgement delivered in March 2017, had also affirmed the conviction and life term awarded by the trial court to two other accused.

It, however, had acquitted the other three accused who were convicted by the trial court.

While dealing with the appeal filed by Hari Om, the top court referred to the record and said the “glaring inconsistencies” on the issue of whether the minor child had witnessed the incident on the night of Diwali in October 2008 cannot be discarded.

“In the circumstances, we do not find it safe to rely on the version given by the child witness in the instant case, who was about five years of age when the incident had occurred,” the bench said.

“While setting aside the orders of conviction and sentence recorded against them, we acquit them of all the charges levelled against them. They be set at liberty, unless their custody is required in connection with any other offence,” the bench said in its judgement.