Burden of Proof Not Met: Supreme Court Overturns Murder Conviction.

CASE TITLE – Sharanappa v. State of Karnataka

CASE NUMBER – Criminal Appeal No. 1673 of 2011

DATED ON – 04.10.2023

QUORUM – Justice Abhay S. Oka & Justice Pankaj Mithal



The appellant was convicted by the Trial Court for the offences punishable under Sections 302 and 201 of the Indian Penal Code (for short “IPC”). For the offence under Section 302, the Trial Court sentenced the appellant to undergo life imprisonment and to pay fine of Rs.25,000/- (Rupees twenty five thousand). In the appeal, by the impugned judgment, the High Court has confirmed the conviction. The deceased is Meenakshi with whom the appellant married on Basavajayanti day in the year 2003 in a mass marriage programme. The case of the prosecution is that on 28th May, 2004 PW-3 Alfred Mathai saw the appellant in the company of the deceased near Mariyapura Bus Stop. On 30th May, 2004 a body of a female person was recovered in a decomposed state. The body was identified as that of the deceased wife of the appellant. The prosecution case is that on 28th May, 2004 itself, the appellant informed his father-in-law that his wife was missing. However, he did not file a missing complaint. The appellant filed a missing complaint on 31st May, 2004. The First Information Report was registered on the basis of the complaint filed by appellant’s father-in-law on 1st June, 2004. The allegation made therein was that the appellant suspected that his wife was living an adulterous life and that was pleaded as a motive to kill the deceased. The case is based on circumstantial evidence. The first circumstance is of last seen together. The second circumstance is of the recovery of knife allegedly used as a weapon of offence by the appellant, at the instance of the appellant. The third circumstance is that though even according to the appellant, the deceased was missing since 28th May, 2004, he never filed a missing complaint till 31st May, 2004 and he did so after getting the knowledge of the fact that the dead body of his wife was found on earlier day.



Whether the prosecution has been able to successfully prove the guilt of the appellant beyond a reasonable doubt.



The learned senior counsel appearing for the appellant submitted that the evidence of the witness, PW-3 Alfred Mathai is wholly unreliable. He also brought the Court’s attention to the evidence of the alleged witnesses to the Recovery Memorandum of alleged recovery of the knife at the instance of the appellant. He submitted that both the witnesses have not supported the prosecution. His submission was that both the important circumstances which constitute the chain of circumstances against the appellant have not been established.



The learned Additional Advocate General appearing for the respondent-State, while supporting the impugned judgment, submitted that the Trial Court and the High Court have analyzed the evidence of PW-3 and found that his version was reliable. His submission was that the appellant has not explained a very important circumstance against him that from 28th May, 2004 to 31st May, 2004 he did not lodge even a missing report with the police. He submitted that only after he came to know about the recovery of body of his wife, he lodged missing complaint.



The Hon’ble Supreme Court stated that it is the duty of the prosecution to establish all the circumstances forming a part of the chain, and noted that the first and the most important circumstance relied upon by the prosecution was of last seen together, the only witness examined to prove the said circumstance was PW-3 Alfred Mathai. In the cross-examination, The Court observed that the witness stated that he had not stated anything before the police which is found in his statement Exhibit D-1 which was recorded under Section 161 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973. Further, he stated that only when he went to the police station he came to know who the accused was and also whose dead body it was. Thus, it was crystal clear that what was stated by the PW-3 Alfred Mathai in his examination-in-chief is a complete improvement. Therefore the Hon’ble Supreme Court held that it was impossible to believe his testimony. Hence, the theory of the prosecution about the last seen together must fail. So far as the case of the prosecution regarding recovery of the weapon of the offence at the instance of the appellant is concerned, the Court found that both PW-4 and PW-5 were allegedly the witnesses to the mazhar have not supported the prosecution. PW-4 stated that he signed the mazhar at the police station. PW-5 did not depose before the Court that the appellant, while in police custody, stated that he was aware about the place at which he had concealed the weapon of the offence. Therefore, even the second circumstance pleaded by the prosecution was not at all established. The Hon’ble Supreme Court stated that only on the basis of the third circumstance based on the conduct of the appellant, the appellant cannot be convicted. Hence, the appeal succeeded and was accordingly allowed. And the impugned judgments were set aside and also acquited the appellant of the offences alleged against him.


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Judgment Reviewed by – Gnaneswarran Beemarao

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