(HOLD) Delay in appeal outcome no ground for exoneration in murder: SC
New Delhi, Sep 8 (IANS) A person who has been acquitted of murder by a trial court cannot challenge the reversal of this by the high court on the ground of delay in deciding an appeal against setting him free, the Supreme Court has held.
An apex court bench of Justice P. Sathasivam and Justice B.S. Chauhan said this recently while rejecting the contention of Shyam Babu that the Allahabad High Court took 25 long years in setting aside his and six others' acquittal by the trial court and awarding him and two others life imprisonment for killing five people in Uttar Pradesh.
"In the case on hand, merely because the high court had taken nearly 25 years to dispose of the appeal, the present appellant cannot be exonerated on the grounds of delay," said Justice Sathasivam Friday.
Rejecting the appeal by Shyam Babu, the court noted that it was not a case of single murder but the killing of five people due to firing and gunshot.
"We are unable to accept the said contention," the court said, adding that the apex court in a series of decisions had held that "the Limitation Act, 1963 does not apply to criminal proceedings unless there is express and specific provision to that effect".
The court said that it was a settled law that a "criminal offence is considered as a wrong against the state and the society even though it is committed against an individual".
Rejecting the plea that Shyam Babu be exonerated because he was the only surviving accused out of seven, the court said that it was unable to accept this plea in view of the clinching evidence led by the prosecution.
"We should not forget that due to the gruesome incident, five persons lost their lives and one person sustained injuries," the court said.
"There is no reason to exonerate the present sole appellant merely because the other co-accused died due to natural death," the court said.
An Etawah trial court Sep 8, 1981 acquitted Shyam Babu and six others of killing five people and injuring one in a dispute over the overflowing of water from the accused's water channel into the fields of the victims.
The Uttar Pradesh government appealed against their acquittal in the high court. Four of the seven people died in 25 years that the high court took in deciding the appeal and overturning the trial court acquittal order. The high court order came Jan 13, 2006.
Three people moved the apex court in 2006 challenging their conviction by the high court. By the time, the apex court could pronounced its verdict Friday, two of the three appellants also passed away.
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