Immaterial and irrelevant lacunas in investigation would not entitle an accused to benefit of doubt: Bombay High Court

In case of highly defective investigation in case law is well settled. Defect in the investigation by itself cannot be a ground for acquittal. Where there has been negligence on the part of the investigating agency or omissions, etc. which resulted in a defective investigation, there is a legal obligation on the part of the court to examine the prosecution’s evidence thoroughly. The investigation is not a solitary area for judicial scrutiny in a criminal trial. The conclusion of the trial in the case cannot be allowed to depend solely on the probity of investigation. This remarkable judgment was passed by the Bombay High Court in the matter of ASHOK DHONDIRAM DHAVALE V STATE OF MAHARASHTRA [CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 904 OF 2018] by Honourable Justice Sadhana S. Jadhav and Honourable Justice N.R. Borkar.

The Appellant was convicted of the offence punishable under section 302 and 201 of Indian Penal Code and was sentenced to suffer for life and fine of Rs. 5000/- in default of simple imprisonment for six months. Therefore, this appeal was preferred.

The facts leading to this appeal, Deepali Shinde daughter of Leelabai and the elder sister of Manisha and Poonam, called upon her mother but her cell phone was switched off and therefore, she called upon her younger sister Manisha. Her mother used to stay with Manisha and Poonam who upon enquiry, informed that mother had gone to visit her brother house 5 days ago. She kept on calling but later came to know that her mother had not visited their house. The whereabouts of her mother could not be traced moreover Manisha’s cell phone was also switched off. Later, she learnt about Manisha’s affair and was called by an unknown person about their injuries. Later, the same person again called her and asked her to come alone to a place if she wanted to meet her mother.

Subsequently, she lodged a missing report at the police station and expressed suspicion against the accused Ashok Dhavale who was apprehended by the police.

The Court observed that “The submission of the learned counsel, that at the most it can be said that the accused had knowledge of the place where the dead body was found and does not prove that the accused had caused homicidal death cannot be taken into consideration for the simple reason 1) That the bodies were decomposed and beyond identification. 2) The bodies were found in the forest area far from the main road. The accused is not a resident of that locality and neither it is a road commonly used by a passer-by and if so he ought to have disclosed the source of his knowledge.3) There is no explanation as to why his wallet was found on the spot close to the dead body. The contents of the letter as is reflected in Para 26 of the judgment of the trial Court also needs to be taken into consideration as the contents would prove there was rather a love affair between Manisha and the accused.”

In this regard, the HC bench stated that “Witnesses may lie but circumstances speak for themselves. In a case of circumstantial evidence, if the material collected in the course of investigation are interlinked the same has to considered accordingly. A logical inference has to be drawn. What needs to be appreciated and considered is the cumulative effect of the circumstances which must be such as to negate the innocence of the accused and the said circumstances lead to the only conclusion that the accused is the perpetrator of the Crime. Moreover, there is no material on record to show that prior to the information given by the accused there was any possibility for the police to know the site where the dead bodies were lying.”

Immaterial and irrelevant lacunas in the investigation would not entitle an accused to benefit of the doubt. Misplaced leniency would result in miscarriage of justice especially in cases like the present one where a mother and her two daughters have died a homicidal death at the hands of the accused.

Therefore, Bombay HC upheld the conviction of the accused and dismissed the present appeal.

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