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Murder Convict Acquitted, Sets Aside Life Term After Man Serves 13 Years In Jail: In Karnataka High Court

The Karnataka High Court recently overturned a man’s 13-year conviction for murder under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code. The court thus overturned the Special CBI Court’s life sentence and ordered his immediate release. 

In the case of Shiva Prasad @Shiva vs State of Karnataka (Criminal Appeal No.573/2019), a division bench of Honourable Justice B. Veerappa and Justice S. Rachaiah issued the order in the appeal filed by Shivaprasad, a driver who was acquitted for alleged robbery at a house but convicted for the owner’s murder. 

“In the absence of any material produced by the prosecution to the effect that robbery and murder occurred on the same transaction and in the absence of any eye witness to the incident, it is not safe to convict the accused under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code,” the Bench concluded. 

“The Court’s most important consideration is to prevent a miscarriage of justice,” it continued. A miscarriage of justice can result from the acquittal of the guilty or the conviction of the innocent.” 

Facts of the case: 

The accused allegedly entered the house of deceased Thulasi on June 27, 2008 with the intent to steal her jewels. He was accused of stabbing her in the neck and other body parts. During the scuffle, the victim allegedly snatched the knife and attempted to assault the accused with it, resulting in a scratch on his left cheek. The accused then went to the first floor of the house and stole 905 grams of gold and other valuables from the godrej almirah. 

The police registered a complaint based on the son’s complaint and filed a charge sheet against the accused for the offence punishable under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code after an investigation. On March 19, 2019, the sessions court issued the impugned order, acquitting the accused of robbery under Sections 392 and 397 of the IPC but convicting him of murder and sentenced him to life imprisonment. 

Court Findings: 

The Bench stated at the outset that the acquittal order (qua offence of robbery) has reached finality because the prosecution has not challenged it. As a result, once the accused is acquitted of the offence punishable under Sections 392 and 397 of the IPC, the prosecution bears the burden of proving the accused’s involvement in the homicidal death of the victim in order to trigger the provisions of Section 302 of the IPC. 

The High Court concluded that the prosecution witnesses’ testimony did not establish the accused’s involvement in the deceased’s homicide. All of the prosecution witnesses had only mentioned robbery in their testimony. 

“Surprisingly, the learned Sessions Judge proceeded to convict the accused for the offence punishable under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code, claiming that there is sufficient evidence to prove the accused’s guilt in the deceased’s homicide. The prosecution has produced no evidence to suggest that robbery and murder were part of the same transaction. The conclusion that the accused committed murder cannot be drawn solely from the evidence “the Court remarked 

“In the absence of any eye witness, and since the prosecution has not proven the chain of circumstances linking the accused in the homicidal death of the deceased, it is not safe to convict the accused for the offence punishable under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code, in the absence of any corroborative evidence with regard to accused’s involvement in the homicidal death of the deceased,” it continued. 

“The golden thread that runs through the web of administration of justice in criminal cases is that if two views on the evidence adduced in the case are possible, one pointing to the accused’s guilt and the other pointing to his innocence, the view favorable to the accused should be adopted,” it concluded. As a result, it granted the appeal and overturned the conviction. 

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