‘Conviction Was Based On Surmise And Conjectures’
Less than 10 months after he was convicted of the murder of his wife in January 2000 by a trial court, TV host Suhaib Ilyasi was acquitted by the Delhi high court on Friday, which said that his conviction was based on “surmises and conjectures and not on evidence”. The trial court had sentenced Ilyasi to life imprisonment.
The high court took note of the medical evidence and testimonies of witnesses in reaching this conclusion. It did not rule out the possibility of suicide by Ilyasi’s wife, Anju.
A key observation by Justice S Muralidhar and Justice Vinod Goel was that though Ilyasi was convicted of murder, the trial court had disbelieved the testimonies of the family members of his wife and acquitted him of cruelty and dowry death charges. They also pointed out that the state did not challenge this.
“Medical and forensic evidence show the death resulted from stab injuries caused by the kitchen knife which was found in the house… Merely because the deceased was found to be in good spirits around two hours prior to the incident would not rule out the possibility of her committing suicide by stabbing herself as a result of her quarrel with the appellant (Ilyasi),” the HC observed.
Ilyasi had been sentenced to life imprisonment on December 20, 2017, after being convicted. On January 10, 2000, 29-year-old Anju Ilyasi had been rushed to an east Delhi hospital with stab wounds in her belly. She had bled excessively and could not be revived. Ilyasi had told the cops that his wife had stabbed herself during a heated argument with him.
18 yrs on, it’s suicide and not homicide
A medical panel had on January 18, 2000 said that Anju’s injuries were “self-inflicted and suicidal” in nature whereas on October 9, 2014, a five-doctor panel gave the opinion that the “case points towards commission of homicide”. The HC, however, said that the five-member panel had no specific reasons to conclude that it was a case of homicide. “A conclusion based on faulty analysis, erroneous or absent facts and with no cogent reasons does not inspire confidence,” the HC said.
With the fingerprints from the scene not matching those of Ilyasi’s, the bench observed that the trial court had failed to appreciate how the forensic reports helped to prove that death was not homicidal. Ilyasi had contended that Anju had stabbed herself with a kitchen knife and remained consistent on this throughout his examination. And the medical evidence, in HC’s opinion, supported his plea.
The HC pointed out how the trial court had made adverse comments on Ilyasi’s conduct during and after the incident — the fact that he did not prevent Anju from stabbing herself, made no effort to stop the bleeding and didn’t provide her with first aid or immediately call for help. These inferences appear to be “based on surmises and conjectures and not on evidence”, said the HC.
Another important factor that prompted the HC to disbelieve the prosecution theory was the improvements in the testimony of Anju’s sister, Rashmi Singh, who was one of the witnesses. Records show that the sister had called Anju on January 10, 2000, when Ilyasi picked up the phone and purportedly told her: “Didi, Bullu ka to dimag kharab ho gaya hai,” referring to his wife. The sister claimed that Anju snatched the phone from Ilyasi and said: “Didi, take me away or he is going to kill me.” During her cross-examination, however, the sister confirmed that Anju had only told her to “take her away”.
In the opinion of the bench, the sister was “obviously an interested witness”, who wanted to get Ilyasi convicted. “It is on her statement that the case came to be registered and investigated. Her testimony as an interested witness does not satisfy the test of truthfulness and reliability on the parameters set by the law as explained by Supreme Court. The trial court, therefore, erred in relying on her testimony,” said the HC. The judges relied on the statement of Ilyasi’s personal security officer, who had entered the crime scene soon after Anju’s death. He had claimed in his testimony that Anju told Ilyasi she had committed a mistake. This fact strengthened the argument of defence counsel Rebecca John, Rajiv Mohan and Abhimanyu Kampani that it was a suicide and not a homicide.