Gokulraj case: HC directs SP to produce witness with protection
V Gokulraj (21) of Omalur, Salem district, a Dalit, was murdered after being abducted by a gang over his friendship with a girl, who belonged to the upper caste. The incident occurred in June 2015.
MADURAI: The Madurai bench of Madras High Court on Thursday directed the Namakkal Superintendent of Police to produce Swathi, a key witness who turned hostile in the Gokulraj murder case, before the court on Friday.
V Gokulraj (21) of Omalur, Salem district, a Dalit, was murdered after being abducted by a gang over his friendship with a girl, who belonged to the upper caste. The incident occurred in June 2015. The police booked 17 people including S Yuvaraj, president, Dheeran Chinnamalai Peravai, as the key accused, following the murder.
A division bench Justices MS Ramesh and N Anand Venkatesh in the order said Swathi, the prime witness in the case had initially played an active role in assisting the prosecution at the stage of the investigation. Being a star witness, investigation had her statement recorded by the Magistrate under Section 164 Cr.P.C. However, it appears that something had transpired between the date of recording of the statement and the time she was called to depose in her examination-in-chief before the trial court. Swathi appeared to have completely turned turtle and resiled her previous statements. The trial court, without exercising power under Section 165 Cr.P.C and eliciting the cause for this sudden somersault, simply declared Swathi as hostile and discarded her evidence.
The witnesses turning hostile is now a regular feature particularly in sensitive cases.
There could be no greater affront to the system of administration of justice if courts were to remain mute spectators when star witnesses turned hostile in front of it.
The bench added that, to satisfy judicial conscience, particularly in the light of the fact that this case is loaded with communal overtones, the court found it necessary to exercise powers under Section 391 Cr.P.C suo motu to recall Swathi to the witness box. It’s imperative without which a clear failure of justice would be occasioned.
It’s learnt that there was lack of protection for Swathi before she came to the trial court to depose as a witness. Such a mistake should not recur and hence the Namakkal SP is directed to provide police protection to Swathi and her family members. The police should ensure that no one is allowed to meet her or make any phone calls to her and her family members. These safeguards must be taken to ensure that Swathi comes before this court without any fear in her mind when she’s questioned.
The bench ordered the investigation officer to produce Swathi with sufficient police protection directly to the court from the Judge’s chamber.