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HC relief for trio

Cuttack: Orissa High Court has ruled that an accused can be given benefit of doubt when a trial court judgment suffers from "perversity".

The ruling came in the case of three public servants, who had been sent to jail for misappropriation of government funds by a vigilance court eight years ago.

The state vigilance registered the alleged bungling of funds meant for rehabilitation of degraded forest work in the Nabarangpur division in 1986-87 as a case of forgery 28 years ago. The Court of Special Judge (Vigilance), Jeypore, convicted and sentenced the trio to two years of imprisonment in 2009.

Range officer Kalakar Mohanty, forester Prafulla Chandra Patra and forest guard Lambodar Pujari challenged the ruling the same year and were granted interim bail. Their appeals had since languished in the court till they were allowed on October 10.

The high court felt that the prosecution failed to establish that the appellants had abused their official position with dishonesty or benefited financially. The forgery charge was not made out, and there was lack of clinching evidence that the appellants dishonestly or fraudulently misappropriated any property for their own use. "In view of it, when the prosecution case suffers from serious infirmity, the guilt of the appellants have not been established beyond reasonable doubt and the impugned judgment suffers from perversity, I am constrained to give benefit of doubt to the appellants," the single judge bench of Justice S.K. Sahoo ruled. "The appellants are on bail by virtue of the orders of this court. They are discharged from liability of their bail bonds."

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