The cross-examination of every witness was below average; Investigation also done hastily: Supreme Court of India

The Supreme Court recently acquitted a man convicted and sentenced to death by the trial court for killing his wife and four minor daughters on the ground that the investigation was done hastily and the cross-examination of witnesses conducted by the legal aid counsel for the accused was below average. This was seen in the case of Ramanand @ Nandlal Bharti Vs. State of Uttar Pradesh (CRIMINAL APPEAL NOS. 64­65 OF 2022) and the case was presided over by Honourable Former Mr. Chief Justice of India Uday Umesh Lalit and Honourable Mr. Justice S Ravindra Bhat and Honourable Mr. JB Pardiwala.


The Allahabad High Court had ordered to uphold the conviction of the appellant-accused of killing his wife and four children while they were asleep. The trial court had found the appellant guilty on the grounds of extra-judicial confessions with a strong motive to commit the crime. Through their learned counsel, the parents of the passed victim had argued that the accused had an extra-marital affair which was opposed by the family and led him to this crime.


The Supreme Court observed that the entire case was fabricated without clear citation of eye witnesses and was based on circumstantial evidence without major proof to support the arguments.

The Supreme Court noted that the entire case was surrounded around extra-judicial confessions and the discovery of the murder weapon and proper motives with strong proof is also not established.

“The fact that we have ruled out the circumstances relating to the making of an extra-judicial confession and the discovery of the weapon of offense as not having been established, the chain of circumstantial evidence snaps so badly that to consider any other circumstance, even like motive, would not be necessary,” the Court said.

The Court also acknowledged that the legal aid received by the appellant was inadequate and would have been offered a good legal aid counsel to prove his innocence. The Court further noted that the decision was influenced by the improper legal aid provisions.

The Court majorly noted that poor cross-examination of key eyewitnesses shows the incompetency of legal aid.

“Questions which the defense counsel was supposed to put to the prosecution witnesses were put without realizing or understanding the legal implications of the answers to such questions, particularly when they were not necessary. The defense counsel remained oblivious of the position of law that suggestions made to the witnesses by the defense the (sic) answer to those are binding to (sic) the accused,” the judgment said.

The Court opined that the state should provide adequate and experienced legal aid to the prisoner in cases of serious offenses. It further urged lower courts to maintain free and fair trials for the needy.

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