Calcutta, May 10: Calcutta High Court today directed the state jails department to release a man who had already been behind bars for 15 years for killing his elder brother.
Surajit Burman was a minor when he committed the crime.
After the high court found out that the age of the convict had not been determined by the trial court which heard the case, it appointed a committee to get an ossification test (to determine the age) done on the prisoner.
Today, when the report of the test reached the high court, it was revealed that Surajit is now 30 years old. Fifteen years ago, when he killed his elder brother Gurudas, he was a minor. According to the laws of the country, the trial of a minor is carried out by a juvenile court, which can sentence a murderer up to three years of imprisonment. But Surajit's case was heard by an additional session judge of Cooch Behar.
'Four of the 16 witnesses of the murder case had claimed that the accused was a minor during the crime. So the trial court should have had an ossification test of the accused done. As the right procedure was not followed by the court concerned, we are asking the authorities to release him from the jail immediately,' the division bench of Justices A.K. Talukdar and S.P. Mitra said in their verdict.
Surajit killed Gurudas by shooting him with a gun owned by the Burman family of Mathabhanga in Cooch Behar. Gurudas had rebuked his brother for not studying.
Gurudas's wife, who was the only eyewitness to the incident, lodged a complaint with the Mathabhanga police station, which arrested him on the same date.
The trial started in the court of the additional sessions judge of Cooch Behar who after examining 16 witnesses, delivered his verdict on April 17, 1999. Surajit was convicted and the judge sentenced him to life imprisonment.
Though four of the 16 witnesses had told the judge that Surajit was a minor at the time the crime took place and that he should be tried in a juvenile court, the additional sessions judge did not take any action in this regard.
Not only that, though Surajit appealed to the high court in May 1999 against the trial court's order, the plea was heard only after seven years.
In March this year, while scouting for old pending cases, the high court selected Surajit's appeal for immediate hearing. As Surajit had no lawyer to appear for him, the division bench asked advocate Jayanta Narayan Chatterjee to take the brief on the convict's behalf.
When Chatterjee pointed out that the trial court should have done an ossification test of the accused during the hearing, the division bench appointed a committee to arrange for the test to be conducted on the prisoner.