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Accused entitled to benefit of doubt since suspicion not proof in law: Bombay High Court

An accused charged of murder is entitled to benefit of doubt since suspicion, no matter how strong it may be, is not sufficient to be considered as a legal proof is upheld by the High Court of Judicature at Bombay Bench of Aurangabad through a learned division bench led by HONOURABLE MR. JUSTICE VK JADHAV and HONOURABLE MR. JUSTICE SK MORE in the case of Avdhoot Vithal Ghate v. State of Maharashtra (CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 702 OF 2014).

Brief facts of the case are that Ghate was arrested in 2012 for allegedly killing a co-worker by hitting his head with a stone during a drunken argument. After questioning sixteen witnesses in the trial, which lasted more than a year, Sessions Court found Ghate guilty and convicted and sentenced him to life imprisonment.The court overturned the conviction of the Sessions Court in Ahmednagar on an appeal by Avdhoot Ghate, a worker from Jalgaon.

The appellants objected to the order, arguing that the prosecution’s case was based on circumstantial evidence and that there was no direct evidence against him to substantiate the chain of events. He further argued that the prosecution failed to provide its rationale.

The respondent relied on Ghate’s confession statement recorded by the Special Jurisdiction Judge. The judge gave Ghate one day time to reconsider the confession, thus, deciding on the voluntary nature of the confession. This confession was not withdrawn during the framing of the charge and during the interrogation of the 16 prosecution witnesses.They also claimed that witnesses identified the suspect during identification.

The Bombay High Court held that the evidence revealed that the prosecution’s case was based entirely on circumstantial evidence and that there was no direct evidence in the case.The Board did not find confession statement to be true and voluntary and was not supported by other materials.Suspicion is created against the appellant-defendant, but the suspicion, no matter how strong, cannot take the form of legal evidence. Hence, conviction was overturned on the grounds that the prosecution failed to prove the case beyond reasonable doubt.

Click here to read the judgement

Judgement reviewed by- Bhaswati Goldar

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