Public servants are 'duty-bound' to speak the truth: Bombay High Court
BL Soni

Mumbai: Observing that a public servant is duty-bound to speak the truth, the Nagpur bench of the Bombay High Court recently ordered Maharastra Police to initiate perjury proceedings against a police officer, who turned hostile in a murder case despite being the sole eyewitness. The HC said it could not be a mute spectator in such cases. 

 A bench of Justices Nitin Sambre and Nitin Suryavanshi said, "Prima facie it is clear from the record that the police officer, being a public servant, was duty-bound in law to protect the deceased, who was in his custody. In his presence, in the court premises, the deceased was brutally attacked with weapons and murdered but while deposing before the lower court, he has resiled from his previous statement and tried to support the accused. Thus, a prima-facie case is made out against him for perjury and it is expedient in the interests of justice to launch a prosecution."

The bench was dealing with a plea filed by state police challenging the acquittal of seven men who killed an undertrial prisoner when he was being brought in a lower court, for hearing in another case. At that time, the police officer - Dilip Trivedi (name changed) - who has worked for over 27 years with Maharashtra Police, was escorting the undertrial. 

According to the prosecution, Trivedi was the eyewitness to this murder, which took place in 2002. However, during the trial, which commenced somewhere in 2012, he backtracked from his initial statements, and this led to the acquittal of the seven men.

In his defence, Trivedi argued that he deposed before the court after 10 years of the offence. "Therefore, some mistake had taken place on my part while identifying some accused persons. The mistake was due to the long gap in the period between the date of the incident and the date of my deposition. It was not a deliberate or intentional one," Trivedi claimed.

However, the judges were unimpressed by Trivedi's explanation. "The explanation given is unacceptable and we are not convinced. Trivedi, being a responsible police officer, was duty-bound to tell the truth before the court. However, he has resorted to falsehood, and hence, we are unable to accept the explanation offered by him. According to us, this is just an after-thought and does not justify the serious act of perjury committed by him," the judges said.

The bench further said that Trivedi had deliberately given false evidence before the lower court to help the accused and had thus committed an offence against the public at large. "This court cannot be a silent spectator where stinking facts warrant interference, in order to serve the interests of justice. If this court remains oblivious to the patent facts on record, it would be tantamount to failure in performing its obligation under the law," the bench said, ordering prosecution against Trivedi.

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