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It is better that ten guilty persons escape, than that  one innocent  suffers: The Supreme Court of India

It may not be wise or prudent to convict a person only because there is rampant increase in heinous crimes and victims are often reluctant to speak truth due to fear or other extraneous reasons. The burden to prove the guilt beyond doubt does not shift on the suspect save   where the   law   casts   duty   on   the   accused   to   prove   his/her innocence. It is the bounden duty of the prosecution in cases where material witnesses are likely to be slippery, either to get their statements recorded at the earliest under Section 164 Cr.P.C. or collect  such other cogent evidence that its case does not entirely depend upon oral testimonies. The aforesaid has been established by the Supreme Court of India while adjudicating the case of Bijender v. State of Haryana [CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 2438 OF 2010] which was decided upon by a single judge bench comprising Justice Surya Kant on 8th November 2021.

The facts of the case are as follows. on 14th April 1999, at around 11:00 AM, Bal Kishan (Complainant) was on his way to Delhi on his motorcycle along with his nephew, Sanjay, to purchase a plot of land and was carrying a sum of Rs. 46,000/­ for the said purpose. When the Complainant reached near the farmhouse of one Virender Bansal,   on   Jatheri   Road,   he was intercepted by a   vehicle.   The Appellant and one   Manjeet   (co­accused)   stepped out of the said vehicle, armed with country-made pistols, and asked the Complainant to hand over the amount. The Complainant then handed over the key of the bike. The Accused took out the bag containing the money from the boot of the motorcycle and fled from the spot. Whereafter, the Complainant rushed towards the nearest Police Station on foot, leaving his nephew and the motorcycle behind, at the place of the incident. The Trial Court convicted the Appellant and Manjeet under Sections 392 & 397 IPC. Manjeet was further convicted under Section 25 of the Indian Arms Act, 1959. Accused   Mukesh and  Subhash were also convicted under  Section 120B IPC. All the Accused were sentenced with a maximum sentence of rigorous imprisonment of 10 years each under Section 397 IPC and/or Section 120B IPC. However, the High Court reduced the sentence under Section 397 IPC to rigorous imprisonment of 7 years so as to meet the ends of justice.

The court perused the facts and arguments presented. It was of the opinion that “ Unmindful of these   age­old   parameters,   we find that the  Prosecution in the present case has miserably failed to bring home the guilt of the Appellant and Courts below have been unwittingly swayed by irrelevant considerations, such as the rise in the incidents of dacoity. In its desire to hold a heavy hand over such derelictions, the Trial Court and the High Court have hastened to shift the burden on the Appellant to elucidate how he bechanced to be in possession of the incriminating articles,   without primarily scrutinizing the credibility and admissibility of the recovery as well as its linkage to the misconduct. In light of the afore­stated discussion, we are of the considered opinion that the evidence on record does not establish the guilt of the appellant beyond reasonable doubt and the Courts below have arrived at   recording   the   guilt   of   the   Appellant   in   absence   of   any   cogent rationale, justifying his conviction.”

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Judgment reviewed by Aryan Bajaj

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