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Scarlett case verdict: HC points to mistakes in trial court judgment



The High Court of Bombay at Goa,  which  convicted and sentenced Samson D’Souza to 10-year rigorous imprisonment in the British teenager Scarlett Eden Keeling death case,  has said  that it  is  constrained to observe as to how the trial court erroneously and perversely made the  observations in the impugned judgment from which it appears that trial court’s approach in annalysing the evidence of the prosecution witnesses was “totally improper and uncalled for”.

The 15-year-old Scarlett Keeling was found dead at Anjuna beach on February 18, 2008.

Two locals – Samson D’Souza and Placido Carvalho – were accused of leaving her to die after drugging and sexually abusing her.

The Goa children’s court had in 2016 acquitted Samson D’Souza and Placido Carvalho.

The High Court’s  division bench, consisting of Justice Prithviraj Chavan and Justice R D Dhanuka, in its judgement has said, “The impugned judgment and order of acquittal rendered by the trial court is a result of improper appreciation of evidence and is capricious. The conclusions are contrary to the evidence on record. The judgment is based on surmises and conjectures. The trial court has ignored cogent, trustworthy and reliable evidence of the witnesses coupled with medical evidence which corroborates the fact that the victim was under the influence of narcotic drugs and alcohol. The trial court has also ignored the bruises noticed by the medical expert below the knees that is on the shin and other parts of the body. There is indeed a miscarriage of justice.”

The High Court has also said, “The view taken by the trial court is an impossible view in the given set of facts and circumstances. We have, therefore, re-appreciated and reviewed the entire evidence on record and constrained to take a different view. Decision of the trial court will have to be reversed to meet the ends of justice. We are conscious of the fact that there is

presumption of innocence in favour of the respondent. However, there is absolutely no scope of any doubt creeping in, in the light of the discussion made herein above.”

The High Court has pointed out that at the very beginning of the judgment in paragraphs 34 and 39 it was observed by the trial court that there was a fresh investigation conducted by the CBI right from registration of fresh FIR/crime which is a technical discrepancy at the very inception, and it weakens the case of the prosecution.

Without analysing the evidence of the prosecution witnesses in a serious case like this, the trial court jumped to a conclusion that the prosecution case is weak, the HC has said 

“In paragraph 39 of the impugned judgment she went on to observe that the testimonies of material witnesses of the prosecution namely PW10 Luis Coutinho, PW14 Murli Sagar and PW16 Chandru Chavan are not seen to be free from the shadow of doubts. Even before discussing and analysing the testimonies of these witnesses, how could the trial court make such observations before touching the evidence of these witnesses and the other material on record?,” the  HC has asked.

With regards to Section 304 (ii)of the IPC, the High Court has observed that “the case in hand squarely falls within the purview of second part of Section 304 of IPC. In view of the discussion herein above, respondent no.1-Samson not only made the victim consume the liquor but also allowed her to sniff cocaine line which had resulted in victim totally inebriated under the influence as is evident from the medical evidence. The respondent no.1-Samson thereafter took the victim to the seashore at the wee hours and thereafter abandoned her near the seashore after outraging her modesty. The victim was totally under his control and custody. Respondent no.1Samson had full and complete knowledge that if the victim is deserted in such a condition at the seashore it may likely to cause her death by drowning, though, he had no intention to cause her death. The offence, therefore, squarely falls within the ambit of second part of Section 304 of IPC”.

The High Court has also observed that there is no clear evidence in so far as respondent number two – Placido Carvalho alias Shana – is concerned as to whether he had any intention to cause hurt to the victim by allowing her to sniff cocaine lines spread in a plate. There is also no evidence in the sense that he wanted to take disadvantage of the victim or that he in any manner abetted the act of Samson. There is no evidence forthcoming as to any instigation or any conspiracy being hatched by Samson and Placido to seduce the victim.

The High Court has also said the evidence on record clearly indicate that there was absolutely no delay and it was quite justified in making over the investigation to the CBI in the light of the aforesaid facts. No mother would delay in reporting such matter or pursuing the case when there is question of investigating the cause of death of her daughter. Even otherwise, what is to be investigated is the crime and it is not the technical reason of so called delay.

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