Case against– Sonal Varma(wife of Jagdish Varma),her paramour Santosh Singh, and his friends Mahesh Bhadkamkar and Kuldeep Pokharkar.
Four persons including the wife of late builder Jagdish Varma, who was killed here in 2013, were acquitted of all charges in the infamous murder case, by a local court for want of sufficient evidence. The prosecution had alleged that the four accused had killed 40-year-old Varma and dumped his body in the Bhatsa river in Shahpur of the district. The entire case rested on circumstantial evidence as there was no eye witness.
Prosecution counsel Sangeeta Phad told the court that the main accused Sonal was married to Jagdish Varma and the couple had two children. She was, however, in love with another person for the last 15 years, the court was told.
According to the prosecution, the builder was killed by Sonal Varma (then 36) and her paramour Santosh Singh, 39, who worked as a floor manager with a popular garment brand so that they could live together. It was alleged that Sonal was having an extra marital affair with Singh. After the deceased learnt of their relation, he allegedly started harassing Sonal.
Due to the harassment, Sonal demanded divorce but the victim refused. Aggrieved, Sonal hatched a conspiracy with Singh to kill her husband, the prosecution said. Accordingly, Singh with the help of two of his friends Mahesh Bhadkamkar and Kuldeep Pokharkar plotted to kill Varma, it added. In pursuance of the conspiracy, Sonal called all three other accused at her flat in Vartak Nagar here on the November 7, 2013 midnight. The four thereafter allegedly strangulated Varma to death and wrapped his body in a polythene bag and disposed it of in the river a at Shahpur near here. The two other accused worked in a branded garment outlet in the city, the court was told. Defence counsel Gajanan B Chavan and Anuradha Pardeshi, however, contested the case and said the accused were not at all involved in the murder.
They submitted that all the evidence gathered from the CCTV footage (of the checkpost on way to Shahpur) was concocted and cannot be relied upon. They further argued that the evidence cannot be taken into consideration because it is not supported by a valid certificate under Section 65B of the Evidence Act.
Section 65B of the Indian Evidence Act relates to admissibility of electronic records as evidence in a court of law. The computer holding the original evidence does not need to be produced in court.
The prosecution also failed to prove that Varma was killed first in his house and thereafter his body was thrown in Bhatsa river. And there is no evidence on record to suggest that around the time immediately before the estimated time of death, the three other accused entered the house of the deceased, the judge said.
There is absolutely no evidence also to prove that the body was carried from the flat to river Bhatsa by car. And since the death of the deceased in the house is not proved, the same is not liable to be described as a custodial death.
The prosecution also failed to prove Varma was strangulated to death with cable wire. The circumstances may at the most rest a suspicion against the accused but the suspicion, howsoever strong, cannot displace the proof which is required to be established by the prosecution, he said.
In all, though prosecution proved the death of Varma as homicidal, it miserably failed to prove each and every circumstance beyond reasonable doubt to come to the conclusion that only the accused killed Varma, he added.
In his order, the judge observed, “Considering all these evidence on record, I came to the conclusion that prosecution failed to prove the allegation regarding extra-marital affair of first accused (Sonal) with the second accused (Singh) and the knowledge of same to the deceased (Varma).
It also failed to prove that at any time the wife had demanded divorce from Varma and also failed to prove any incidence which shows that the relation between the wife and the deceased were not good.”
Until the death is proved to be a custodial death, the burden on the accused to explain circumstances arising from Section 106 of Evidence Act (burden of proving fact especially within knowledge) does not arise, the judge observed.
Additional sessions Judge P R Kadam, in his recent order, held that the prosecution had miserably failed to prove the charges of murder, destruction of evidence, criminal conspiracy and joint liability under sections under sections 302, 201, 120 B and 34 of the IPC respectively against Varma’s wife Sonal, her alleged paramour and two others.
By Sweta Subudhi