1. The accused Dharanidhar Mandal was tried by the Sessions Judge of Birbhum with the aid of a jury on charges in the alternative under Sections 304/201 and Sections 325/201, I. P. C. The jury unanimously found the accused guilty under the latter charge. The learned Judge was of opinion that the verdict was perverse and that the accused is entitled to an acquittal. He has accordingly made this reference under Section 307, Criminal P. C. Quite apart from the merits of the case, it is impossible to uphold the trial that was held, because of the opinion which the learned Judge has so strongly expressed as regards the atmosphere of bias and prejudice in which it took place. He has observed that there were strong rumours in the town of Rampurhat and a certain amount of feeling about the case, the main plank in the prosecution case being an allegation that a true and genuine case of murder or at least killing of an innocent woman by a wealthy Marwari had been hushed up by the Police Officers and the Doctor by submitting false reports. The jury appear to have been so much carried away by their convictions that they gave it as part of their verdict that one Ratan Chand, who was not on his trial and not before the Court was guilty of the offence under Section 325, I. P. C. As regards the jury the learned Judge has observed thus:
It appears to me that the jurors were prejudiced from the very beginning against the accused in this case and this prejudice as well as certain rumours which the jury appear to have heard outside the Court influenced their unjustifiable verdict in this case. There were allegations against the conduct and honesty of Police Officers on behalf of the prosecution, and the notorious and widespread prejudice and suspicion against the conduct of the Police in general also seemed to have influenced the jurors.
2. He has also referred to two specific instances, one a question which the jurors put to the Sub-Inspector, P. W. 20, which showed that they were influenced by their private knowledge based on what they had heard outside Court ; and the other a remark which they made while the defence arguments were being heard and which showed that they were prepared to make an assumption against the accused without any evidence to support it. He has also said:
Apart from these two definite instances there were other indications noticed by me in the course of the trial that the jurors were biassed in favour of the prosecution.
3. A verdict obtained on a trial such as this cannot possibly be sustained. And the only question that we have had to consider seriously is whether we should order a fresh trial of the case to be held under proper conditions. We have therefore considered the case on its merits, and having done so we have been able to come most unhesitatingly to the conclusion that it would not be right or fair to make such an order. We are prepared to concede that there are circumstances which should disincline us to accept too readily the case which the defence put forward, namely that the woman committed suicide by hanging. That position however is a long way off from holding that a prima facie case against the accused calling for a trial has been made out. The post mortem report of the Doctor and the inquest report of the Police have both to be thrown overboard if one is to accept the account of the injuries on the deceased now given by the prosecution witnesses. The delay in disclosing the story such as the more important of the prosecution witnesses are guilty of, the unreliable character of of their testimony in view of the different statements they have made at different times, the rather extraordinary circumstances under which the evidence came to light or was elicited, the conflicts and contradictions in the evidence which are obvious and irreconcilable and the palpable falsity of some of the more vital statements made by the witnesses are matters which cannot be too lightly overlooked in this case. It is clear to us that there were agencies at work, well in-tentioned though they may have been, whose influence is discernible in the evidence that came before the Court. The more important of the eyewitnesses are no better than accomplices whose evidence, even though uncorroborated, would have to be largely relied on for a conviction. And if upon materials such as they are at present a fair summing up has to be made it would be more or less in the same strain, namely one of acquittal, in which the present summing up and the letter of reference are couched. No useful purpose, in our opinion, would be served by putting the accused up for a fresh trial. We accordingly accept the reference and setting aside the verdict of the jury order that the accused be set at liberty.