“If my son had not been booked and jailed in a false murder case more than 13 years ago, which prevented him from completing his medical course, he would have become the first tribal doctor of our village,” says Jugram Marskole, a 69-year-old Gond resident of Doke village in Waraseoni in Madhya Pradesh’s Balaghat district.
Jugram’s son Chandresh Marskole, 36, has recently been acquitted of all charges in the murder case by the MP High Court after being incarcerated for over 13 years in a Bhopal prison.
In its judgment delivered on May 4, the high court acquitted Chandresh by overturning a Bhopal trial court’s order, which had convicted him on charges of killing his purported girlfriend Shruti Hill and disposing of her body, sentencing him to life imprisonment.
Allowing Chandresh’s appeal challenging his conviction by the trial court, the high court ruled that the entire case against him was pivoted on circumstantial evidence.
Acquitting him, the bench of Justice Atul Sreedharan and Justice Sunita Yadav, in scathing remarks against the Bhopal police and its investigation, stated, “Chandresh was falsely implicated to protect, perhaps, the actual perpetrators of the offence who may have been known to the higher echelons of the state police.”
Significantly, the high court also ordered the MP government to pay a compensation of Rs 42 lakh to him for wasting over 13 years of his life.
Chandresh was 23 and an MBBS final-year student in Bhopal’s government-run Gandhi Medical College in September 2008, when he was arrested on charges of Shruti’s murder. Jugram, who was then a worker in a Balaghat mine, says it was his entire family’s dream to see Chandresh, second of his three sons, become a doctor.
“It was not only Chandresh’s dream to become a doctor, it was shared by all of us as a family. We sent him to Ranchi for coaching and then he passed the medical entrance test,” Jugram says, adding that “Now that the most difficult and trying times are behind us, I still want to see him become a doctor before I die”.
Less than a year after his arrest, Chandresh was pronounced guilty and sentenced by a Bhopal additional sessions judge on July 31, 2009.
Coming down heavily on the police for their murky investigation, the high court stated, “The enthusiasm shown by the police in conducting this case in a tearing hurry, adds to the suspicion. A speedy trial is most desirable but when a case is investigated, chargesheeted and concluded in less than a year, the same, in the light of other circumstances and the average time usually taken to conclude a trial in this state, makes the cloud even more dense.”
The bench pointed out: “Chandresh is a Gond and thereby a Scheduled Tribe. After his formal arrest on September 25, 2008, the Appellant has continuously remained in jail, first as an undertrial and thereafter as a convict. He has wasted more than thirteen precious years of his life. He was 23 years of age on the date of his arrest and today he is 36.”
Noting that “the discharge of state functions with malicious intent or in a manner malafide, cannot clad the state with the armour of sovereign immunity”, the court also ordered the state government to pay a compensation of Rs 42 lakh to Chandresh. “No amount of monetary compensation can ever replenish the period of youth he has lost for no fault of his. He has been a victim of truth being sacrificed at the altar of a motivated and malicious investigation. Whether his being a member of the Scheduled Tribe had anything to do with the fate he suffered cannot be stated with certainty but the indignity, discrimination and oppression, that members of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes face in the state is a ‘notorious fact’ and does not require any extraneous evidence to be led to prove the same.”
The court’s verdict also noted, “The counsel for the Appellant has argued that the case against Marskole is a trumped-up case on account of previous enmity with PW1 (prosecution witness Dr Hemant Verma), arising from campus politics and that PW1, using his influence with the then Bhopal Inspector General of Police Shailendra Shrivastava, was the main culprit who had committed the murder of the deceased and with the tacit complicity of the police, falsely implicated the Appellant.”
Pronouncing Chandesh’s acquittal, the court concluded: “The case reveals a sordid saga of manipulative and preconceived investigation followed by a malicious prosecution, where the police have investigated the case with the sole purpose of falsely implicating the Appellant and perhaps, deliberately protecting a prosecution witness who may have been the actual culprit.”
Stepping out of Bhopal Central Jail on May 9 as a free man, Chandresh expressed his wish to complete his MBBS course and become a doctor.
According to his advocate HR Naidu, he had made several attempts to pursue his medical studies during his incarceration too, but in vain. “We welcome the court’s judgment. It is a rare judgment in which the court has allowed Chandresh for further appeal and if he so desires to complete his education. An application can be moved for the same, but for now the family wants to have sometime for themselves and subsequently a decision will be reached.”
Meanwhile, Chandresh has been meeting his friends in Bhopal and Indore while heading to his home in Balaghat. “All our relatives and friends are waiting for his return but he wanted to spend some time with his friends on his way back home,” says Jugram.