A decade after. SC revoked its own `death sentence’ against nomadic tribe

The Supreme Court’s verdict two days ago has once again established that how death penalty is most inhuman, arbitrary and mostly makes people of downtrodden and weaker sections victims. Ten years after condemning to death six nomadic tribe members in a rape and murder case, the Apex Court on Tuesday, found them innocent and ordered the Maharshtra Police to hunt down the real criminals.

In a complete volte-face, the apex court ordered the immediate release of Ankush Maruti Shinde, Rajya Appa Shinde, Ambadas Laxman Shinde, Raju Mhasu Shinde, Bapu Appa Sinde and Surya alias Suresh for the murder of five members of a family, rape of a woman and her 15-year-old daughter and dacoity in Nashik.

They had spent over 16 years in jail in anticipation of death. The court said the six men were falsely implicated and roped in by the police. One of the six was a juvenile at the time of his arrest. Some of them have developed psychiatric symptoms due to the long years in solitary confinement. They had not been eligible for pardon or furlough as they were condemned men.

The apex court Bench of Justices A.K. Sikri, S. Abdul Nazeer and M.R. Shah specifically takes the case of Ankush Maruti Shinde, who was subsequently found to be a juvenile.

“Dr. Ashit Sheth, Shinde’s psychiatrist, clearly opined that he lived under sub-human conditions for several years. He was kept in isolation in solitary confinement with very restricted human contact and under perpetual fear of death. He was only allowed to meet his mother, and that too only infrequently. He was not even allowed to mix with other prisoners. Therefore, all the accused remained under constant stress and in the perpetual fear of death,” Justice Shah described.

The court ordered the Maharashtra government to pay each of the six men a compensation of  Rs 5 lakh.The court turned its ire on the State Police force for trauma it unleashed on the men, who belonged to both socially and financially backward communities.

The court highlighted how the police did not bother to even investigate the fact that an eye-witnesses had, immediately after the crime was committed, identified four other men from the rogues’ gallery as the perpetrators of the crime. There has been no effort from the side of the police made to find these four men. The court ordered the Maharashtra Chief Secretary to take disciplinary action against the probe officers within three months.

It may be recalled that the court had dismissed their appeals and found them all guilty enough to be sent to the gallows. However, luck changed for the six men when they filed their review petitions against the 2009 judgment. In October 2018, the court decided to recall its 2009 verdict and hear their appeals afresh. This change of mind by the court has now finally proved their innocence. –

 

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