The charge sheet served on Principal District Judge Desmond D’Costa accuses him of acting in ugly haste and acquitting alleged serial killer Mahanand Naik for consideration other than judicial. It also accused the judge of not examining necessary witnesses in the case and deliberately not considering the confessional statement of the accused.
It may be recalled that on 8th February Judge Desmond D’Costa was placed under suspension by a one line order that did not give any reason for the action. Respected to be a fair and diligent judicial officer, his suspension had evoked a very strong reaction with advocates boycotting court proceedings for a couple of days, marching to the Registrar’s office of the Goa Bench of Bombay High Court and even the citizens holding a public meeting condemning the act.
The report submitted by Principal Sessions Judge U V Bakre to the Bombay High Court Registrar also opines that Judge Desmond being a senior judicial officer should have been sensitive while conducting the trial of that particular case since the accused was supposed to be a serial killer.
By pointing out that the confessional statement wherein Mahanand had reportedly confessed to having sex with the deceased and strangulating her, the Principal Sessions Judge accused Judge Desmond of acting “out of consideration” and “negligently and recklessly in showing ugly haste and hurry in deciding the case”.
The report also notes that the case was not from his file but was referred to him because the presiding officer – the Principal Sessions Judge himself who has submitted the report – was on leave.
The report appears to be filed with malafide intentions as in the first place, the presiding judge cannot examine witnesses unless the prosecution or the defendant produces them. Indian jurisprudence does not put the onus of examining witnesses on the judges.
In the instant case, the prosecution had closed its case for want of more witnesses and the Defendant had no witnesses hence the question of “not examining witnesses” does not arise at all.
As for not considering the confessional statement, it may be pointed out that the said confessional statement has been shred into tatters by other judges in other cases while acquitting Mahanand of those other cases.
Various lawyers have dismissed the confessional statement on grounds that the prosecution is using one confessional statement in all the 17 cases booked against Mahanand. The fact that the statement has been rejected by two other judges proves its irrelevance and therefore making its non consideration an issue is not justified.
The accused was in custody when the trial was going on and there are umpteen number of instances when the Supreme Court has suggested that custodial trial be conducted expeditiously so that the rights of the accused are not infringed upon and hence it cannot be said that there was “ugly hurry and haste” in deciding the matter.
But the worst cut of the report is the insinuation that the case was disposed off “out of consideration” when throughout his 20 years career as a judge, there has not even been a whisper of Judge Desmond acting in any unbecoming manner of a judicial officer.
It would be significant to point out that the Principal Sessions Judge who submitted the report against Judge Desmond D’Costa had granted anticipatory bail to rape accused John Fernandes, which was turned down on appeal not only by the High Court but also the Supreme Court which noted that the anticipatory bail should not have been granted in the first place.
Meanwhile, lawyers are scheduled to march the streets of Margao this afternoon protesting against the suspension order and at the public meeting scheduled at Lohia Maidan in the evening the role of Judge Bakre in the entire episode will be questioned including the aspect of who will submit a report in his anticipatory bail judgement.