The time-honoured Blackstone’s Formulation, “Better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer”, once again appeared to manifest itself with the acquittals of Rajesh and Nupur Talwar in the double murders of their daughter, Aarushi and servant Hemraj. By giving the prime accused the benefit of doubt, the Allahabad High Court overturned the guilty verdict of the special CBI court and acquitted the Accused. It also castigated the CBI Special Judge as being unaware of his solemn duty cast by law and dealing with “the entire case in style – a finesse.”
At the outset, the High Court’s chastisement of the CBI judge is clearly uncalled for. The powers of an Appellate Court are provided under Section 386 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973. In an appeal from conviction, the High Court may reverse the finding and acquit the Accused, direct a retrial or dismiss it, maintaining the sentence. Nowhere does the law provide any means to cast personal aspersions on the character or integrity of the subordinate judge.
Thus, the High Court, at the very outset, overstepped the mandate of 386 Cr.P.C. The trial-judges are after all, constitute the prime machinery of the criminal justice system. Such adverse observations may even impact the CBI judge’s prospects of career advancement. It is imperative that these statements be expunged forthwith.