Bombay High Court: In a petition claiming damages for facing wrongful criminal prosecution for ten years of petitioner’s life and praying for action to be taken against the erring investigating officers, a Division Bench comprising of Ranjit More and Sarang V. Kotwal, JJ., partially allowed the petition, thereby directing the State of Maharashtra to pay a compensation of R. 6 lakhs to the petitioner within a period of 8 weeks, the amount being recoverable from the officers who investigated the case between 1996 and 2006.
In a case dating back to 1996, involving the murder of a 21 year old Guddu, whose dead body was identified by a former employer, he expressed his suspicion against the petitioner and two other persons when the police approached him. His suspicions were based on the ground that three persons from Ludhiana had come looking for the deceased and one of them had the same name as that of the petitioner. Following the petitioner’s arrest, Guddu’s mother gave a statement that though she had received communication that Guddu had been murdered in 1996, she had met him on subsequent occasions. This was corroborated by five other people. Therefore, it is clear that the investigating authorities were aware of a possibility of Guddu being alive, but they chose to ignore their responsibilities.
Relying on Nilabati Behera v. Legal Aid Committee, (1993) 2 SCC 746 and Sharda Narayan Bhongade v. Surendra Jagmohan Pali, (2002) SCC OnLine Bom 870, the Court held that “the right to life and personal liberty is available to a person who is facing a criminal prosecution” and that in this case, it had been “seriously infringed because of callous attitude and inaction on the part of investigating agency”. However, no directions were issued against the erring officers since two of them had expired and one had retired. [Jawaharlal Ramtirth Sharma v. State of Maharashtra, 2017 SCC OnLine Bom 7453, decided on August 9, 2017]