A murder convict from a poor home was given the benefit of the doubt and acquitted today by the Supreme Court, which said “most poor people are unable to approach the court”.
The convict was sentenced to a life term for committing robbery and murder in 2015 at a village in Haryana.
The sentence was cancelled today. The Supreme Court also directed the Haryana government to find out whether another convict in the case is still in jail so he could be released too.
“They are poor people, why should they remain in custody,” the Supreme Court questioned.
Rajaram and Chhinda Ram were convicted of killing a 76-year-old woman at Nagpur village in Haryana in February 2015.
A trial court convicted and sentenced them to life in jail and the High Court in 2019 confirmed the sentence.
Today, a two-judge bench of Justices UU Lalit and Ajay Rastogi said, “These are poor people. Why should they remain in custody? They came through legal services authority – we don’t know whether the other person is alive or not. Poor people cannot come to the Supreme Court.”
Rajaram had challenged the High Court order in the Supreme Court using free legal services offered by the state. His co-accused Chhinda Ram did not appeal against his conviction.
Advocate Minakshi Vij from the state-run Legal Services Authority defended Rajaram pointing out that no witness saw the convicts entering the woman’s house. The lower court, she said, convicted them on the basis of statements of neighbours who had said they had seen the two roaming near the house. But there were no eye witnesses either.
The Supreme Court said there was no independent witness and only there was at best circumstantial evidence against the two men. “The benefit of the doubt must be given to the convicts. Since they are poor they may not know the legal process,” the judges said.
The court will take up the case tomorrow.