In what can only be described as a mockery of the legal system, a rural court in Gujarat’s Navsari acquitted two people after a 6-year jail sentence following the discovery that the victim they had allegedly ‘murdered’ was alive and well.
However, in spite of gross negligence in the inquiry, the court ordered the investigating officer – the then inspector of the Navsari (rural) police station Pradipsinh Gohil – to pay Rs 50,000 as ‘compensation’ to each of the two men.
On July 6, 2016, Madan Pipladi and Suresh Batela were detained on the basis of an FIR filed at the Navsari rural police station for the suspected murder of Nagulal Gayari.
Gayari was assumed dead and members of his family ‘recognised’ his ‘body’ – incorrectly – as presented by the local authorities.
Imprisoned for six years, the trial against the defendants’ continued from 2016, under Indian Penal Code (IPC) sections 302 (murder), 201 (destruction of evidence), and 114 (criminal conspiracy) – till the court exonerated them on March 30, 2022.
The twist to this tale of mockery came about when Gayari’s brother found out he was alive and living with a relative, barely a few hours after his family performed his final rites,
Despite this, the police proceeded to submit a chargesheet against the duo, stating that they murdered Gayari for allegedly intruding into one of the accused’s residence one night.
Gayari later confessed to authorities that he broke into an accused’s house one night looking for food because he was hungry, but escaped when his wife awoke. Gayari fled Navsari that night, fearing repercussions for trespassing, and went on to live with his relatives.
According to the chargesheet, the main accused planned Gayari’s murder to strangle the victim with a nylon rope before tossing it on the side of the road. Nineteen witnesses and 35 papers were presented as evidence in court, including documentation identifying the victim as Nagulal Gayari.
During the hearing, the public prosecutor claimed that the evidence was sufficient to prove the crime and requested the highest punishment against them, according to the order.
The defence lawyer then informed the court that the man whose murder the accused were charged with is still alive, and that his identity verification was provided by his brother and a village panchayat official.
The court acquitted Madan Pipladi and Suresh Batela for being ‘incorrectly involved’ in the murder case, and noted that a ‘false chargesheet’ was filed against them, despite the fact that the body discovered by the police had no link to them.
The investigating officer, police inspector Pradipsinh Gohil, never sought to determine the identity of the body.
The court ruled that the duo of Madan Pipladi and Suresh Batela experienced mental and bodily torment, as well as financial and damage to their social reputation as a result of the investigating officer’s incompetence. The court ordered Gohil to pay each of the two men Rs 50,000 for his ‘careless inquiry’.