Law

Defence Counsel Breaks Down Prosecution’s Claims in Maruti Case

Senior advocate Rebecca John pointed out glaring holes in the prosecution’s claims based on discrepancies in witness statements and the supposed weapons of offence.

Police outside the Maruti factory in Manesar soon after the incident in 2012. Credit: PIT/Files

Police outside the Maruti factory in Manesar soon after the incident in 2012. Credit: PIT/Files

For the second day running, the defence counsel for the 13 accused in the Maruti factory arson and murder case pointed out glaring holes in the prosecution’s arguments before a Gurgaon court. She demonstrated how the police had not only tried to implicate most of the accused but also planted evidence in a very shabby way.

Appearing for the main accused, 13 union workers, senior advocate Rebecca John began her argument by challenging eye-witness claims. “In most cases the identification was faulty. In case of person A, a person B was identified and in some case a random name was just thrown [in] without the witness giving a role to that name and as such the role of such an accused had no meaning,” she told The Wire.

‘Identification process faulty’

John said she challenged the evidence on grounds of identification. “I said if the prosecution was fair it would have held the test identification parade (TIP) closer to the date of the incident to test the genuineness of the version of the witnesses. They did not do that because they know the TIP proceedings would fail.”

Then coming to the witnesses who were brought to court and who named an assortment of people, the senior advocate said when it came to identifying the accused, “these witnesses messed up for they did not know who was who”.

Beware of exhortations, Supreme Court’s warning

Referring to the charges levelled against the police and the prosecution on Monday, John also alleged that the evidence was fabricated. After assessing the evidence, John claimed that a number of accused men have been implicated on identical statements such as “three or four of them exhorted everyone to kill”. She said the Supreme Court has time and again said that one must view these cases of exhortation with great care because statements like these point to a lazy witness who has nothing else to say.

“Actually speaking,” she said, none of these witnesses had any substantial role in the event, even as the prosecution’s witnesses, except the claims of exhortation. “Even in the case of those witnesses injured in the melee where a role was attributed to the accused that they caused the injury, most of the injuries were very minor in nature and none of these injuries were to any vital part of the body.”

Inventory does not match up with the prosecution’s claims

The defence also raised concerns about the weapons recovered during the police’s investigation. “These weapons were substituted by the prosecution from lathi, iron rod and birja to car door beams and shocker rods. So that was the first dishonesty and fabrication. But even if one were to assume that all these workers actually picked up the shockers and door beams from the weld rooms and the assembly rooms, the question to be asked was if the Maruti company were able to show the shortfall of these equipment from these rooms.”

John said the witnesses were asked specific questions on whether they had anything to add to substantiate this argument about the inventory, but they had none. “The investigation officer also admitted that other than oral statements, he had gathered no other corroborative evidence to actually come to the conclusion that these many shockers and door beams were missing from their stock.”

Questions about the recovery process

According to the prosecution, all the accused took these shocker rods and door beams from the ground floor and then went up to the first floor, which is where the incident happened. The prosecution has also stated that there were about 300 security workers, management staff and police on the premises at the time. “So how was it possible that they managed to take away so much of the equipment,” asked John.

The prosecution has also claimed that the accused workers took their weapons back home with them, which is eventually where the police recovered them from. On this claim, John said, “In almost all these cases these men were arrested around August 1, 2012 though the incident took place on July 18. The recoveries were made, in almost all cases, another seven to eight days later from their rented premises, showing that the police fabricated the evidence. Ideally, in such a scenario they should have been able to recover them immediately.”

What happened during the police raid

Even the process of recovery is suspect according to John. She said none of the door beams or shocker rods had any identification markers to suggest that they belonged to the Maruti factory and they were also not sealed properly. “Most interestingly,” she said, “when they were recovered almost all the 8-9 officers who conducted the raids were carrying with them similar pieces of cloth with which they got the shocker rods or door beams covered and then all of them immediately magically got a tailor to stitch them up. All the officers who made the recoveries from different places, gave the same story and surprisingly none of the recovery memos had the tailor’s signature.”

Addressing yet another aspect of the prosecution’s charges, she said the police had not submitted the landlord’s account or the rent agreements in any of the cases even as the accused have denied owning the premises from which the weapons were recovered.

Questions about the weapons of offence 

The Supreme Court, she said, had also stated that the weapons of offence should be examined by the doctors who conducted the post-mortem in order to confirm that the injuries sustained by the deceased could have been caused by these weapons. But none of the doctors were shown these supposed weapons of offence. “All the doctors agreed that the injuries to the legs of the deceased Maruti official Avnish Dev could have also been caused by his falling on to a hard surface, which could have happened because there were so many people in the room and there could have been a stampede,” John argued.

The matter is now listed for hearing on Friday, January 27.