Man gets death sentence twice, then walks free
Saibal Sen | TNN | Jan 16, 2016, 06.17 AM IST
Babu Molla was accused of murdering a five-year-old boy, gorging his eyes out to transplant his own and even leading police to the murder weapon, a knife.
On December 7, justices Ashim Kumar Roy and Mumtaz Khan of the Calcutta high court found holes in the investigating officer’s testimony, pointing out that there never was any direct evidence against Molla and set aside the trial court order sentencing him to death.
The high court had earlier directed senior lawyer Sekhar Basu as amicus curiae to assist it in the case. Basu, too, had pointed to several problems in the trial court order.
Molla’s travails began on April 6, 2015, when a toddler went missing in his village. A complaint was filed with police, public announcements were made, but little Sohel could not be traced.
Two days later, another child, Sifon, claimed he and Sohel were playing when Molla called them over to his home. Molla reportedly asked Sohel to stay back and asked Sifon to leave.
Given that Molla’s family was on the lookout for eyes for a transplant, suspicious villagers informed police. Together, they searched Molla’s home, but found nothing.
Three days later, villager Hasina Biwi, spotted Molla’s mother, Manjuma, trying to shove a sack in the pond. She raised an alarm. The sack had Sohel’s body. The condition of the body indicated the child had died 48-72 hours before.
There was a deep wound on the neck and the eyes had been gouged out. Police arrested Molla, his mother and three other relatives. Cops searched their house again and this time found blood stains on the wall, a syringe and a bottle. Four days later, another search at Molla’s home – following his statement to police – led to the recovery of a knife, possibly the murder weapon.
The trial court convicted Molla and his mother, but acquitted others. Molla was sentenced to death and his mother given life term. In February 2015, the high court, on finding some legal lacunae, set aside the conviction order and ordered a retrial. Once again the trial court held Molla guilty and sentenced him to death. Manjuma’s life imprisonment, too, remained.
While deliberating the second death penalty order, the high court argued that the trial court had not questioned Molla on how his mother possessed the toddler’s mutilated body. The investigating officer’s testimony in court was self-contradictory. A witness had even contradicted the IO. While upholding Manjuma’s trial, the HC ordered Molla’s release.