Circumstantial Evidence without the presence of motive is not enough to convict the accused: Supreme Court of India

Supreme Court quashed the order of the High Court and upheld the judgement given by the session’s court concerning inconsistency in the flow of events from the prosecution held by Justice M.R.Shah in the case of Anwar Ali and another Vs State of Himachal Pradesh [Criminal Appeal No. 1121 OF 2016].

This appeal was filed by the original petitioner against the order of the High Court reversing the order of acquittal of the accused passed by the learned trial court. The accused were charged under Section 302,34,392,201 and 420 (Punishment for murder, Liability for acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intention, Robbery, causing disappearance of evidence of offence or giving false information to screen offender, Cheating and dishonest inducing) of Indian Penal Code, 1860 for the murder of Mr Deepak.

The deceased’s body was found which was identified by his father and three days later the SHO of the police received information regarding a deserted vehicle that contained mobile phones and photos of the accused. Hence, they were arrested and a charge sheet was filed. Since there was no direct evidence the Trial Court felt that circumstantial evidence without proving men’s rea cannot be enough to convict a person and thus the accused were acquitted which was later set aside by the order of the High Court.

The contention of the appellants was that the High Court exceeded its jurisdiction to give an order against the order of the trial court. The appellants proved the various lacuna which was even considered by the trial court. There was no flow of events and there were discrepancies in the events presented by the respondent. The SHO has also not followed the whole procedure as given under Section

The respondents claimed that High Court has the authority to re-examine all the evidence from the beginning and come to a conclusion. The case of State of Punjab v. Balbir Singh [(1994) 3 SCC 299] was relied on where it was held by the Supreme Court, a defective investigation if any does not vitiate the trial. It is submitted that as held by this Court in the case of Sudha Renukaiah v. State of Andhra Pradesh [(2017) 13 SCC 81], in which it was held that, “even if the IO has committed any error and has been negligent in carrying out any investigation or in the investigation there is some omission and defect, it is the legal obligation on the part of the court to examine the prosecution evidence dehors such lapses.”

In Atley v. State of U.P. [AIR 1955 SC 807], it has been laid down by this Court that “it is open to the High Court on an appeal against an order of acquittal to review the entire evidence and to come to its own conclusion, of course, keeping in view the well-established rule that the presumption of innocence of the accused is not weakened but strengthened by the judgment of acquittal passed by the trial court which had the advantage of observing the demeanour of witnesses whose evidence have been recorded in its presence.” Hence, the contention of the appellant that the High Court exceeded its jurisdiction was not sustained.

However, the Supreme Court accepted the fact this is a case of circumstantial evidence. In the case of G. Parshwanath v. State of Karnataka [(2010) 8 SCC 593], it was held that there must be a chain of evidence so complete as not to leave any reasonable ground for the conclusion consistent with the innocence of the accused and must show that in all human probability the act must have been done by the accused, where various links in the chain are in themselves complete, then the false plea or false defence may be called into aid only to lend assurance to the court.

The Court was of the view that the stance taken up by the Trial Court was correct and there were too many procedural gaps and fake documents to be overlooked. The Court relying on precedence stated that “absence of motive in a case depending on circumstantial evidence is a factor that weighs in favour of the accused”. While appreciating the facts and circumstances of the case the Court held that the order of the High Court is squashed and the two accused are acquitted.

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Judgement reviewed by-Sarita Kumari

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