Evidence of solitary eye-witness should be of sterling quality, so that there is no doubt regarding the complicity of the Appellant: Odisha High Court

It is a well-settled principle of law that evidence has to be weighed and not counted. So, a solitary eye-witness can be relied upon to convict a person. The evidence of solitary eye-witness should be of sterling quality so that there is no doubt regarding the complicity of the Appellant as stated by the witnesses in the commission of the crime. A division bench comprising of Justice S.K. Mishra and Justice Pramath  Patnaik adjudicating in the matter of Ramachandra Sahu vs. State of Odisha (Criminal Appeal No.216 of 1998) dealt with an issue of whether to acquit the Appellant and grant his appeal or not.

In the present case, The Appellant assails his conviction u/s-302 of IPC where he was sentenced to imprisonment of life vide judgment and order dated 18th August 1998. According to the prosecution, on 30.06.1997 three sisters Laxmi, Hema, and Srimati (deceased) started from their house at village Dankalpadu to collect ‘Kia’ flowers. After moving together for some distance, Laxmi left in one direction towards ‘Kaburigudi’ whereas Hema and Srimati went together in another direction towards ‘Jambari’. While both sisters were walking on the lane, flanked on either side by ‘Kia’ bushes, Hema, who was walking ahead, heard the cry of agony raised by Srimati. She turned around to find the accused dealing sword blows on the neck of the deceased. Seeing such a brutal attack, Hema fainted and collapsed. Lachhmeya (PW-4) saw the dead body of Srimati and informed the family members of the deceased. Laxmi and Sashi (sister-in-law) saw the body of the deceased and saw the accused running with his companion. The villagers informed the police about the incident over the phone and on the arrival of the police, Laxmi submitted the report, and an investigation was undertaken. After completion of all the investigation procedures, the police submitted the charge sheet.

The Appellant completely denies his involvement in the crime and states that he was falsely implicated. The prosecution provided 15 witnesses in support of their case and established the charge against the appellant and the impugned judgment of conviction was passed.

The Appellant contended in the present appeal that the Trial court passed the order of conviction without considering the evidence of the sole witnesses. Also, it was further contended that leading to discovery under Section 27 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 is wholly misconceived, as the witnesses to the same P.Ws.6, 12, and 14 have turned hostile to the prosecution. Therefore, the learned counsel for the Appellant submitted that the impugned judgment may be set aside and the Appellant may be acquitted of the charge in which he has been convicted. The prosecution replied that the evidence of the eyewitness is free from any inconsistency and infirmity. The Appellant also stated that there are abnormalities in the FIR  and it is full of contradictions in material particulars and hence not trustworthy. The witness in her cross-examination stated that she did not see the accused which was confirmed by the Investigation Officer, but in her statement u/s-161 CrPC she stated that Appellant was dealing blows on the deceased Srimati by means of the sword. Such contradiction appearing in her evidence with respect to her statement made under Section 161 of the Code is substantial and material contradiction making her evidence doubtful. The evidence of solitary eye-witness should be of sterling quality, so that there is no doubt regarding complicity of the Appellant as stated by the witnesses in commission of the crime.

Also where the prosecution relied upon the circumstantial evidence i.e i.e. leading to the discovery of the weapon of offence under Section 27 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872. It was submitted that leading to discovery as has been relied upon by the learned Trial court is wholly misconceived and against the law. According to the investigation officer, the accused voluntarily appeared in the Police station and led to the place where he concealed the weapon but such instance was not supported by some witnesses. Also, the sword covered in bloodstains that were recovered did not have human blood or the blood of human origin belonging to the deceased.

Looking upon the set evidences it cannot be accepted to prove a case of murder of the deceased against the convict/ appellant and hence the court is of opinion that the prosecution has not proved its case beyond all reasonable doubt and therefore, the appeal Is allowed.

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