The Bombay High Court has acquitted a man convicted of murder by the Sessions Court, in the absence of fingerprint samples from the murder weapon, a knife. The court’s judgement, pronounced on December 5, also concluded that the recovery of bloodied clothes from the accused was not sufficient in itself to convict him.
In 2003, the accused, Ishwarbhai Makwana, wanted to marry a recently widowed woman named Raji. When she spurned his advances, he allegedly murdered her.
Raji and her husband had become friends with Makwana after the couple had rented a place to stay from him. After Raji’s husband succumbed to tuberculosis, Makwana continued visiting her while she stayed alone. According to witnesses, Makwana had offered to marry Raji several times, but she rejected him.
According to the prosecution, this rejection angered Makwana, and he murdered Raji on the night of March 9, 2003. The next day, Raji’s neighbour came to her house and found that her throat had been slit. Makwana was convicted of murder based on circumstantial evidence.
Besides the fact that Raji had rejected him several times, an eyewitness had spotted Makwana near the victim’s home on the night of the murder. The clinching evidence however, was a bloodstained shirt and pant recovered from Makwana with blood matching the victim’s blood type.
During the trial, Makwana denied ever having intended to marry Raji.
The division bench of Justices VK Tahilramani and AR Joshi noted that Makwana’s visitations alone could not be considered sufficient evidence to convict him. The court also did not find much importance in Makwana being spotted near the victim’s home.
The court observed, “The accused passing through the house of the victim cannot be considered as clinching material mainly considering that the house of the victim is situated in a chawl-like structure and due to the front of the chawl being a public way, various persons pass by.”
The odd hour at which Makwana was loitering in the area was also not unusual, since that was the only time water was available there.
The court also found force in the argument that Makwana’s house was not searched after his arrest, and said it was improbable that a person would keep bloodstained clothes in his own house without trying to dispose of them or at least trying to wash off the bloodstains.
The court concluded, “it would be far-fetched to consider that these circumstances point out only to the accused and none-else so far as murder of the victim is concerned… no steps were taken during the investigation to find out any fingerprints on the handle of the knife… if those steps would have been taken by the investigating agency, it would have given more authentic clues to find out the assailant.”