Judgment of acquittal of co-accused is inadmissible under sections 40 to 44 of the Evidence Act: High Court of Karnataka

Judgment of acquittal of co-accused would not be admissible within meaning of Sections 40 to 44 of the Evidence Act. This was held in UMMER FAROOQ V. STATE OF KARNATAKA[CRIMINAL PETITION NO.6857/2020] in the High Court of Karnataka by single judge bench consisting of JUSTICE H.P. SANDESH.

Facts are that the petitioner was arraigned as co-accused in a complaint, the police registered a case for the offenses punishable under Sections 143, 147, 341, 323, 504, 354, 307 r/w S.149 of IPC and filed charge sheet against 10 accused. The case against petitioner was split up and other accused were tried separately and acquitted. Petition is thus filed before this Court for quashing of proceedings.

The counsel for petitioner contended that learned Magistrate had not framed  specific or separate charges against the petitioner. He relied upon Judgment of the Apex Court in the case of Vishwas Bhandari v. State of Punjab and Anr and other cases to examine the scope of S.482 and futility of trying co accused.

The government pleader contended that the benefit of Section 482 of Cr.P.C. cannot be invoked as accused had absconded and relied upon the Judgment in the case of Umesh v. State of Kerala in favor of refusing to quash the proceedings on the ground that co-accused was acquitted.

The court referred to the Apex court judgment in the case of Rajan Rai v. State of Bihar, wherein the court had held that the judgment of acquittal of co-accused is not admissible within the meaning of Section 40 to 44 of the Evidence Act. The Apex court had also highlighted the irrelevancy of the judgement of co accused tried separately.

The court relied on the case of Umesh v. State of Kerala, where the Apex Court had discussed the scope of Sections 482, 227 and 239 of Cr.P.C. held  that Trial Court under Section 239 is the proper forum to file an application and the Apex Court judgement in the case titled Yanob Sheikh alias Gagu v. State of West Bengal wherein the following observations were made, “The cumulative effect of the above discussion is that the acquittal of a co-accused per se is not sufficient to result in acquittal of the other accused. The Court has to screen the entire evidence and does not extend the threat of falsity to universal acquittal. The court must examine the entire prosecution evidence in its correct perspective before it can conclude the effect of acquittal of one accused on the other in the facts and circumstances of a given case.”

Considering the facts of the case and the earlier precedents the court dismissed the petition. Court addressed that the petitioner had absconded and had waited for the trial of co-accused to be over and thus directed the petitioner to appear before the Trial Court and to file necessary application for discharge before the Trial Court in accordance with law.

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