The absence of motive weighs in favor of the accused: Supreme Court of India

When direct evidence is available in a case, the role of motive is limited. But when it comes to a case which is substantiated by circumstantial evidences, motive plays an important link to complete the chain of circumstances. Conviction in a case of circumstantial evidence will not be warranted unless and until the prosecution proves its case beyond all reasonable doubt. This was held in the case of Shivaji Chintappa Patil v. State of Maharashtra, Criminal Appeal No. 1348 of 2013, by Hon’ble Justice B.R. Gavai in the Supreme Court of India.

The subject matter of the case is an offence punishable under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code. The Husband, who is the appellant in the case has been accused of homicide as his wife was found hanging dead in their house. The learned trial judge convicted the accused for the offence punishable under Section 302 IPC and sentenced him to imprisonment for life. The appellant who was aggrieved by the order filed an appeal to set aside his order of conviction and imprisonment.

The counsel for the appellant submitted that the case was entirely based on circumstantial evidences and would not be sustainable, unless and until proven beyond all reasonable doubt. The prosecution failed to establish motive in the case and Reliance in this respect is placed on the judgment of this Court in the case of Babu v. State of Kerala, which says that motive plays an important role in cases with circumstantial evidence. Reliance was also placed on the golden principles which was established in the case of Sharad Birdhichand Sarda v. State of Maharashtra, that should constitute the panchsheel of the proof of a case based on circumstantial evidence.

The Court observed that, “In the case of circumstantial evidence, two views are possible on the case of record, one pointing to the guilt of the accused and the other his innocence. The accused is indeed entitled to have the 16 benefit of one which is favourable to him. All the judicially laid parameters, defining the quality and content of the circumstantial evidence, bring home the guilt of the accused on a criminal charge, we find no difficulty to hold that the prosecution, in the case in hand, has failed to meet the same. The Court held that the chain of events that happened is not sufficient enough to arrive at a conclusion that proves the guilt of the accused. The prosecution has failed in proving the circumstantial evidence put forth beyond reasonable doubt. The appeal was allowed and the conviction e passed by the trial court as affirmed by the High Court was set aside.

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