The Meghalaya High Court has today set aside the conviction and jail sentence of former NPP leader Nidamon Chullet and his aide Coming Rabon. It also ordered the retrial of the case by the Jowai District and Sessions Court.
It may be mentioned that the Jowai District and Sessions Court found Chullet, along with Rabon, guilty in the murder of Ewanmi Lhuid, nephew of a retired IAS officer, following a brawl in Jowai, West Jaiñtia Hills district, in February 2008.
In a verdict passed on January 19 this year, the District Sessions Court sentenced Chullet to life in jail under Section 302 of IPC while Rabon was sentenced to seven years in jail.
Both Chullet and Rabon filed an appeal before the High Court challenging the judgement of the District Sessions Court.
Pointing to many anomalies in the trial by the judge of the District Sessions Court, the High Court in a judgement passed today set aside the verdict of the District Sessions Court.
“On an overall appreciation of the matter, there appear to have been several anomalies that led to a miscarriage of justice in the appellant herein either not having due opportunity to deal with certain statements or not being explained the purports of the other material against him. Accordingly, the impugned judgment of conviction and the consequent sentence dated January 19, 2022 stand set aside to the extent they concern the appellant herein,” the division bench of the High Court said in the judgement.
The High Court also said that in the course of the appeal by Chullet and Rabon, several anomalies have come to the fore which indicate that the two appellants “may have been seriously prejudiced in course of the trial for want of due diligence on the part of the prosecution and the trial court not being alive to the same”.
The High Court also ordered a retrial of the case by the District Sessions Court, Jowai from the stage of framing of charges after all documents to be relied upon by the prosecution against the two appellants were given copies to them within a fortnight from today.
Since the matter is of the year of 2008, the High Court has drawn up a tentative schedule for the conduct of the trial which should be adhered to by the District Sessions Court, Jowai.
The High Court also directed that charges should be framed afresh against the appellants within a week of the receipt of such documents to be relied upon by the prosecution.
It also directed that the trial should commence within a week thereafter and within two weeks of the commencement of the trial, the oral evidence of the two original prosecution witnesses should be completed.
The High Court also said that after completion of recording of the evidence of the two prosecution witnesses, both Chullet and Rabon will be entitled to be released on bail on conditions as the trial court may deem appropriate.
“The trial court will endeavour to complete the trial within eight weeks after the completion of recording of the evidence of PW1 and PW2. The appellant will not be entitled to seek any adjournment and the prosecution should make every endeavour to be represented on the dates set by the trial court and the trial court may take up the matter on a daily basis so as to adhere to the schedule indicated herein,” the High Court said.
However, the High Court made it clear that the observations made in its judgement today will not prejudice either the prosecution or the appellants in the course of the fresh trial.