36 years on, man walks free in murder case tied to a watch

“It is solely based on circumstantial evidence”

February 25, 2020 09:36 pm | Updated November 28, 2021 11:55 am IST - NEW DELHI

A view of the Supreme Court of India in New Delhi. File

A view of the Supreme Court of India in New Delhi. File

The Supreme Court has acquitted a convict in a 36-year-old murder case which hinged solely on the victim’s faulty Anglo-Swiss watch.

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The prosecution case that Md. Younus Ali Tarafdar of West Bengal killed one Becharam Dhara was entirely built on the surmise that he gave the victim’s watch for repair three days after he went missing.

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The case dates back to March 1984 when a decomposed body was found inside a well in a garden in Rajarhat. Autopsy revealed that the cause of death was asphyxia. The prosecution said the body was cremated immediately as it was in a decomposed state.


A few days later, Kenaram Dhara visited the police station to report that his brother, Becharam, was missing since March 15. Policemen showed him photographs of the body they had cremated and Kenaram went on to identify it as his brother’s.


Tarafdar and three others were arrested during the investigation. The primary evidence against Tarafdar was a counterfoil of the receipt from a watch repair shop that the police said was found in his house. The other factor was that three of Becharam’s family members testified that he had planned to visit Tarafdar on March 15.

The trial court acquitted the three fellow accused, but found Tarafdar guilty of the murder. He was sentenced to a life behind bars. The High Court court confirmed the sentence.

In his appeal, heard by a Bench of Justices L. Nageswara Rao and Deepak Gupta, Tarafdar argued that he was coerced into making the confession. The counterfoil was not recovered from his house. The defence argued that the body was mutilated and hardly recognisable. Only photographs were shown to the relatives, not the body itself.

The apex court believed him. “There is no direct evidence regarding the involvement of the appellant in the crime. The case of the prosecution is on the basis of circumstantial evidence… A close scrutiny of the material on record would disclose that the circumstances relied upon by the prosecution to prove the guilt of the appellant were not complete and do not lead to the conclusion that in all human probability the murder must have been committed by the appellant,” Justice Rao wrote in the judgment pronounced on February 20.

The court said circumstances incriminating a man should be of a “conclusive nature and tendency.” The circumstances “should exclude every possible hypothesis except the one to be proved.”

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