The Madras High Court has acquitted four prisoners who were held guilty by a lower court for causing injuries which led to the death of another inmate in a jail cell in Puducherry in 2009.
"The prosecution has failed to prove its case conclusively," a division bench comprising Justices S Nagamuthu and V Bharathidasan held on Saturday in an appeal filed by Senbaga Srikumar, who was one of the four convicted persons.
In its order, the court said just because the four happened to be in the same prison cell in which another inmate died after sustaining injuries, "it cannot be conclusively presumed that they alone had caused the injuries on Selvaraj" which resulted in his death.
"Conclusion on mere surmises is not permissible in law. Thus, in our considered view, the prosecution has failed to prove as to whether any one of these accused or more of these accused had caused injuries on Selvraj, which resulted in his death," the court said.
Holding that if the defence's "presumption has to be accepted," the court said, "Then the same yardstick has to be applied and the other seven, including the two prosecution witnesses, have to be held responsible for the murder."
On August 14, 2009, Selvaraj alias Siva was brought to Central Prison in Kaladipet, Puducherry. He was lodged in a cell where there were 11 other prisoners, including Senbaga Srikumar.
The next morning, Selvaraj was found dead. The autopsy report revealed that he had died of injuries sustained the previous night.
The Third Additional Sessions Court, Puducherry had last year convicted the four prisoners in the case and awarded life sentence to them.