Paucity of evidence; Trial Court acquits Sooraj Pancholi in Jiah Khan suicide abetment case – Details revealed – Times of India
Jiah then 26 was found hanging in her Juhu house on June 3, 2013 in suburban Mumbai. The Juhu police had arrested Pancholi on June 10, 2013. He remained in custody for almost a month till Bombay high court granted him bail on July 3.
Special CBI Judge AS Sayyed while pronouncing the much waited verdict said, “due to paucity of evidence, you have been held not guilty. “You stand acquitted.” Zarina Wahab was in tears and told TOI when asked what she had to say folding her hands and then wiping her eyes said, “I thank God”. The actor in olive green shirt, brown trousers and sneakers walked to the box where witnesses and accused stand. He gave his name as Sooraj Pancholi. The judge said “full name”. He then said “Sooraj Aditya Pancholi”. His father is also a well known actor as his mother.
The Judge then said due to paucity of evidence he was being acquitted.
Rabia Khan mother of Jiah Khan and her lawyer Shekhar Jagtap later told TOI that she would appeal the verdict as it was always her case that it “was murder”.
The court room was packed with media persons. His mother Zarina Wahab was present as were his friends and his lawyer Prashant Patil.
The case witnessed many dramatic turns with Khan’s mother, Rabia Khan, claiming it was a case of murder and approaching the Bombay high court in 2014 for a transfer of the m probe to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). The HC transferred case to the CBI which eventually in December 2015 filed a chargesheet for an offence of abetment of suicide against Pancholi.
The case witnessed many dramatic turns with Khan’s mother, Rabia Khan, claiming it was a case of murder and approaching the Bombay high court in 2014 for a transfer of the probe to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). The HC transferred case to the CBI which eventually in December 2015 filed a chargesheet for an offence of abetment of suicide against Pancholi.
A chequered history later, after the matter travelled all the way several times to the Supreme Court, charges were framed against Pancholi on January 1, 2018. The trial then began technically in January 2018 when a witness was examined. However, it gained momentum only in February 2022 and concluded in April 2023.
The CBI through prosecutor Manoj Chelladan examined almost 22 witnesses to prove its case.
Pancholi’s defence lawyer Prashant Patil had argued that the CBI case failed to prove any instigation, guilty mind, or intention as alleged to abet and hence he is entitled to be acquitted and none of the 22 witnesses pointed any fingers at Pancholi. Patil citing Supreme Court rulings on section 306 IPC said “In order to convict a person under sec. 306, IPC there has to be a clear mens rea (guilty intent) to commit the offence. It also requires an active act or direct act which led the deceased to commit suicide seeing no option and this act must have been intended to push the deceased into such a position that he committed suicide.’’
Rabia Khan, in her early 60s, had also moved the HC and sought an order to direct the United State’s Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to probe the phones to recover certain “deleted’’ messages. Last September, the high court dismissed her plea for a FBI probe and in a stern order, deprecated her “repeated insistence” to declare that her daughter’s death was homicidal and not a suicide. The HC said her repeated pleas were a “clear indication of procrastinating the trial’’ that was on.
Pancholi too had approached the HC to expedite the trial court proceedings and had also sought non bailable warrant against Rabia alleging that she cited excused and did not appear on several dates before the CBI trial court.
In his final statement under section 313 of the Code of criminal Procedure (CrPC) which gives the accused a chance to answer questions from the court to personally explain circumstances in evidence against him — but no oath is administered for such examination — Pancholi faced 558 questions, and denied all allegations against him. Jiah’s birth name was Nafisa and Pancholi said he shared a good relationship with her was good and that he had once told her mother that (Jiah) was “depressed’’.
Pancholi also denied the allegations related to Jiah’s abortion in January, 2013. He denied Rabia’s claims that Jiah became a star after her first film Nishabd released in 2007 and also denied chatting with Jiah on the Blackberry phone or living in each other’s homes.
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