It is the legal duty of the prosecution to prove a criminal case beyond all reasonable doubt, meaning the jury must be convinced that there is no other possible explanation from the evidence presented at the trial. This was addressed in a judgement passed by a bench of Orissa High Court consisting of Justice S.K. Mishra and Justice Pramath Patnaik in the case of Ramachandra Sahu v State of Orissa [CRA No. 216 of 1998] on 11th June 2021.
The prosecution alleged that the when the victim, Srimati and her sister, Hema were walking down a lane on 10th June 1997, someone murdered Srimati by slashing her neck with a sword and Hema seeing this fainted and collapsed. The FIR recorded that their other sister, Laxmi was at a mill when she got the news of her sister’s murder from another family member. The main suspect was the petitioner, Ramachandra Sahu who had a long dispute running with the victim’s family. A bloody sword was recovered from the petitioner although it was never mentioned if it belonged to the same blood group as the victim or even if it was the blood of a human being. The District and Sessions Judge, Berhampur convicted the petitioner for murder under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code and sentenced him to undergo life imprisonment.
The petitioner appealed against this judgement on grounds that the prosecution’s story was self-contradictory and relied heavily on circumstantial evidence. It was noted that the victim’s sister, Hema first stated that she never saw the petitioner murdering her sister as she was walking ahead and turned around to see her sister’s neck slashed and a man fleeing the scene, but after a sword was recovered from the petitioner, the sister’s statement was changed. Also the other sister Laxmi first claimed to be at a mill when she was told about her sister’s death by a relative, but later changed her statement that she was having a bath when she was alerted about the same. The court stated that the prosecution had done a very poor job of building the case and that much of the evidence was circumstantial and witness statements contradictory. It was stated that the burden of proof is on the prosecution and in this case they have failed to do so.
Justice S.K Mishra can be quoted as saying “it is our opinion that the evidence of the informant P.W.8 has been contradicted with respect to her statement in court and in the F.I.R. and evidence of P.W.9, the eye-witness has been contradicted with regard to dealing of sword blows on the deceased and such contradictions are material contradictions. So, their evidences cannot be accepted to prove a case of murder of the deceased against the convict/ appellant and in that view of the matter, we are of the opinion that the prosecution has not proved its case beyond all reasonable doubt”.