Former Bihar minister acquitted in Harijan assault case

Navin Upadhyay/Patna

Nearly an year after the then Bihar minister Lalit Yadav shot into disrepute for yanking out the nails of a dalit truck driver and keeping him in illegal captivity for more than a fortnight, a trial court acquitted him and two others co-accused of all charges on Monday.

The special judge (Harijan cell) SK Mishra has ruled that since truck driver Dinanth Baitha and helper Karu Ram, had not supported the prosecution case and turned hostile during their depositions, he was acquitting Lalit Yadav along with co-accused Surendra Yadav and Pappu.

The judgement has once again highlighted the fact that the people occupying high positions in the society are seldom punished for their misdeeds, that witnesses could be manipulated, and the victims often lack the courage to narrate their plight before the court.

It will be interesting to recall that Baitha was first spotted by mediamen at the minister's residence on July 17 in Patna where he had been kept in captivity for more than two weeks.

Private TV channels had prominently flashed Baitha's skeletal profile, missing nails, battered and bruised legs. People had also heard his statement accusing Mr Lalit Yadav of holding him in illegal captivity and alleging that the minister's henchmen had brutally beaten him up and even forced him to drink urine.

However, in a turn of event that has baffled one and all, Baitha last month retracted his statement during his deposition before the court, absolving Lalit Yadav of all the charges and raising a lot of unanswered questions.

In their depositions before the court, Baitha and Karu Ram supported the allegations of torture but remained silent about the identities of their tormentors.

Earlier, the duo had named Mr Lalit Yadav as the prime accused in both the FIR and their recorded statement under Section 164 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

However, five other witnesses including the Dy SP and investigating officer(IO) of the case AK Sinha, Dr RK Pandey who had given first aid to the victims, Inspector SSP Yadav, First Class Judicial Magistrate Vijay Kant Mishra and a Co-operative Department peon Sonelal, supported the prosecution case against the three accused.

During the hearing of the case which concluded on May 18, Special Public Prosecutor Suresh Chandra Prasad quoted from a Supreme Court judgement (AIR 1991, page number 853) that the evidence of the hostile witnesses could not be entirely dismissed just because they had retracted their statements.

However, defence counsel Janardan Rai had argued that there was no evidence against the accused because both the victims had not supported the prosecution case.

The Truck driver's plight had hogged the media limelight for weeks and led to Mr Lalit Yadav's exit from the Rabri Devi Cabinet and his expulsion from the ruling party. Mr Yadav was arrested three months ago and since then he is in judicial custody. Baitha had reportedly distributed sweets on hearing of Lalit Yadav's arrest.

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Referred by: Mukundan CM
Published on: May 23, 2001
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