If the Trial Court erred in reading the evidence on record, the High Court may Interfere: Supreme Court

When the Trial Court has erred in giving judgment with evidence on record which is acceptable or misreading the evidence, the High Court is justified in interfering with the order of acquittal and reversing the same. This judgment was passed in the case of Guru Dutt Pathak vs. State of Uttar Pradesh [Cr. A. No. 502/2015] by a Double Bench consisting of Hon’ble Shri Justice Dr. D.Y. Chandrachud and Hon’ble Justice M.R. Shah.

The petitioner who is the accused was charged for the offense under Section 302 read with section 34 of the Indian Penal Code. As per the prosecution, the deceased was the Pradhan of the village for two decades and the accused had personal grudges with him. When the deceased was going to attend the call of nature near the bank of Yamuna the accused along with the other accused attacked him with lathis and spear and crushed his head with lathis. The Son of the deceased filed an FIR against the four accused persons. As per the post-mortem report, the death was due to shock and hemorrhage as a result of the injuries caused. The High court trial court acquitted the accused. During the pendency of the appeal in the High Court, two accused passed away and on the continuation of trial the petitioner who is accused no. 4 was held guilty. Aggrieved they preferred an appeal before the Supreme Court.

The counsel for the accused on the other hand argue that the High Court cannot interfere with the order of acquittal of the trial court when two views are possible and the order is based on the evidence on record, thereby going beyond the scope laid under section 378 Cr. P.C. The counsel prayed for allowing the appeal and set aside the order passed by High Court.

On hearing both the counsels and analyzing the facts and circumstances of the case, the issue at hand was whether the High Court was justified in interfering with the order of acquittal passed by the trial court. Relying on the cases of Babu vs. State of Kerala [2010 9 SCC 189] and Kuldeep Singh vs. Commissioner of Police [1999 2 SCC 10] the court held that if the High Court has dealt with every evidence and concern in detail and then held the order of trial court perverse. Further, the accused himself as accepted to enmity.

Moreover, the High Court had made it clear that the non-examination of some witness and/or absence of examination of them, it wouldn’t be fatal to the prosecution. The same had been reiterated in the case of Surinder Kumar vs. State of Punjab [2020 2 SCC 563] decided by the Supreme Court.  The Hon’ble Supreme Court held that the decision of the trial court was perverse and even contrary to the evidence on record. Thus the order of the High Court in interfering with the judgment and rightly convicting the accused is justified.

The Hon’ble Supreme Court concluded by holding, “As the appellant – Guru Dutt Pathak, original accused no.4 was granted interim bail up to 30.04.2021 and thereafter the same has not been extended by this court and the present appeal is now dismissed, if the accused has not surrendered so far, he shall surrender himself forthwith to serve out the sentence.”

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