The infamous BT Road firing case of July 23, 2009 ended with all accused acquitted, as the prosecution failed to prove the photographs contained in the Tehelka news magazine.
The Session Judge, Imphal East, W Tonen Singh on Wednesday stated that since the prosecution has totally failed to prove the photographs contained in the Tehelka magazine published on August 8, 2009 as genuine by not producing the required certificate provided under section 65B (4) of the Indian Evidence Act which is mandatory, all the accused are acquitted in the case.
It also stated that the photograph contains a photostat copy of the photographs that appeared in Tehelka magazine. Being photostat copies thereof, the same are not admissible under the law unless it is proved by producing primary evidence, the judge said.
“Whatever found in the depositions against all the accused persons cannot be taken as gospel truth in evidence,” the court stated.
The court stated that the prosecution also admitted that all the accused persons were doing their duties as Police Officers, head constables, constable and rifleman as government servants under the Home Department, that too, in the nearest area where only 500 metres away from the ongoing State Assembly session and in the Khwairamband Bazar which are thickly populated area.
Those photographs contained in the Tehelka magazine are not admissible in the eye of law and there is no other convincing oral or documentary evidence in order to show all the accused persons acted in excess while discharging their official duties on the fateful day occurred on July 23, 2009 at 10:30 am, the court added.
The question whether the accused persons acted in excess of their discharging official duties on the day are to be assessed of all the circumstances and oral evidence of the prosecution witnesses only when the prime and important documents contained at the Tahelka Magazine are proved to be genuine according to law. Hence, prosecution sanction under section 197 of the CrPC is mandatorily necessary in order to proceed to the present case, the court stated.
“Due to want of prosecution sanction under section 197 CrPC and due to lack of Certificate required under section 65B (4) of the Indian Evidence Act, all the accused persons are hereby acquitted from the present case”, the court stated.
From the prosecution witnesses’ testimonies, the court stated that on July 23, 2009, there was an Assembly session going on and the firing incident took place between the youths and the police personnel at BT Road wherein many were injured including a Rifleman of 3 Assam Rifles. The firing led to panic and people were here and there along the BT road.
Regarding Rabina Devi’s death, considering testimonies of prosecution witnesses, the court stated that Rabina Devi succumbed to her injuries at the crossing of Allu Galli and BT Road with a pool of blood on the day. There was a war like situation in the fire incident. Admittedly, all the accused persons were discharging their official duties on 23.7.2009 as police commandos in order to protect the general public as well all the members of the Manipur Legislative Assembly where assembly session was also in full swing at the material time, the court said.
In connection with the July 23, 2009 BT Road (Khwairamband Keithel) firing incident, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) submitted the charge sheet against the City OC, Y Munal and eight other police personnel namely, Hijam Devendro, Thounajam Herojit, Ngangom Toyaima, Wahengbam Binoykumar, Thokchom Jagat, Md Imran Khan, Oinam Keshor and Makan Kanchup Chothi in 2015.
Meanwhile, the case record of the trial was received by Session Court, Imphal East after it was transferred from Session Court Imphal West following an order from the High Court of Manipur.
After the charge was framed against the accused, based on the charge sheet submitted by the CBI, the trial began before the Session Judge, Imphal East on November 23, 2015.
The BT Road firing incident claimed the life of a pregnant woman Rabina along with Ch Sanjit Meitei and five others were injured.
It may be noted that the high-profile case was handed over to CBI by the state government after the Tehelka magazine published photos of the firing incident and the CBI, after investigation, submitted a chargesheet against Y Munal, the then Officer-in-Charge of City Police Station and eight other police personnel of Imphal West district.
After about 14 years of the incident and trial before the court against accused, on Wednesday, the verdict acquitted all accused namely, Yumnam Munal Singh; Hijam Devendra Singh; Thounaojam Herojit Singh; Ngangom Toyaima Singh; Wahengbam Binoy Kumar Singh; Thokchom Jagat Singh; Imran Khan; Oinam Keshor Singh; Makan Kanchung Chothi.
It may be noted that the hard copies of the Tehelka magazine dated July 8, 2009 and also soft copy of the photographs, in a CD, were obtained from the magazine and the same was examined by the CFSL, New Delhi, who opined that none of the photographs are edited or morphed and that seven photographs in which deceased Sanjit (man in black shirt) is seen alive surrounded by commandos have been photograped by one camera in a time span of five minutes i.e. Sanjit was alive in control of the commandos for at least five minutes.
In the court, it also put that Teresa Rehman, while working as journalist with Tehelka magazine, Delhi wrote an article "Murder in plain sight" appearing in pages 10-15 of the issue dated July 8, 2009 on the basis of photographs received by her on her email from a source and telephonic conversation. She has identified the photographs appearing in the magazine as the same photographs, which were received by her through her email. No person turned up to own the photographs having been photograped by any of them. Though wide publicity was given, no witness came forward for having seen deceased Sanjit alive surrounded by Commandos or police on June 23, 2009 near Gambhir Singh Shopping Arcade, Maimu Pharmacy, at BT Road, perhaps due to fear factor.