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Supreme Court’s Thorough Analysis Confirms Guilt and Sentencing for Rajendra Kolhe Based on Comprehensive Evidence Review

Case Title: RAJENDRA S/O RAMDAS KOLHE Vs. STATE OF MAHARASHTRA

Case No.: CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 2281 OF 2011

Order on: MAY 15, 2024.

Quorum: J. ABHAY S. OKA & J. UJJAL BHUYAN

Facts:

In this case, Rajendra, herein the appellant was serving in the army, and his wife, Rekha, was a police constable. Both of them resided in Ambajogai, Maharashtra. On 22nd July 2002, Rekha suffered severe burn injuries around 8:30 PM at the said residence. The prosecution alleged that Rajendra and his brother-in-law, Suresh, subjected her to cruelty, which lead to her death. They tied her up, poured kerosene on her, and set her on fire. She was taken to the hospital where she made a dying declaration involving her husband and brother-in-law. The police conducted an investigation, collecting evidence from the scene and recording multiple dying declarations. Rekha succumbed to her injuries on 24th July 2002, leading to the addition of Section 302 of the (IPC) to the FIR. The police filed a charge sheet against Rajendra, his father-in-law, mother-in-law, and sister-in-law. However, Suresh’s case was separated as he was a juvenile. Further, the trial court convicted Rajendra under Section 302 read with Section 34 of the IPC, sentencing him to life imprisonment and imposing a fine. The High Court dismissed his appeal against the conviction, leading to the current appeal in the Supreme Court. It was evident that during the trial, 13 witnesses were examined, and statements of the accused, including Rajendra, were recorded under Section 313 of the Cr.P.C. however, the defense argued that it was a case of suicide, not homicide and presented evidence, including the testimony of a doctor, to support their claim.

Contentions of the Appellant

The primary contention of the appellant in this case specifically highlights that there was no intention of Rajendra to harm or hurt his wife, instead they state that whatever incident happened during the mean time was not because of him but for some other reason, like suicide and not homicide. Further, the appellant challenged the testimonies of witnesses presented by the prosecution. They argued that the evidence provided by these witnesses was unreliable and inconsistent. Rajendra asserted that he was falsely implicated in the case due to personal vendetta or misunderstanding. He claimed that there was no motive for him to harm his wife. Lastly, he said that the way the courts handled the case was not fair, and they didn’t look at all the facts properly. He thought that maybe if things were done differently, he wouldn’t have been found guilty.

Contentions of the Respondent

The state argued that Rajendra Kolhe was responsible for his wife’s death. They said there was enough evidence to show that he was involved in the incident where she got badly burned and later died. They relied on witness statements and other evidence collected during the investigation to prove their point. They argued that the evidence presented during the trial clearly implicated him in the offense. The state contested Rajendra’s defense of suicide, asserting that the evidence pointed towards homicide rather than suicide. They challenged the credibility of Rajendra’s arguments and maintained that he should be held accountable for his actions. The state contended that the trial court and the High Court had properly considered the evidence and legal principles in convicting Rajendra. They argued that there were no procedural irregularities that would warrant overturning the previous judgments.

Legal Provisions

Section 302 IPC: Punishment for Murder

Section 498A IPC: Husband or relative of husband of a woman subjecting her to cruelty.

Section 504 IPC: It deals with the intentionally insult to provoke. 

Issues framed by the Court

  1. Whether Rajendra Kolhe was indeed guilty of the offense of causing the death of his wife, Rekha?
  2. Whether the trial court’s decision to convict Rajendra under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code was justified based on the evidence presented during the trial?
  3. Whether the trial proceedings adhered to the principles of natural justice and procedural fairness?

Court’s Analysis and Judgement:

Upon the analysis of the Hon’ble court, it carefully crosschecked all the information presented during the trial, like what witnesses said and any evidence collected. They checked if what people said matched up and if it all made sense. Further, they also considered things like reports from experts and what the victim, Rekha, said before she died. Accordingly, they determined the rules and laws that applied to the situation, in order to see if whatever happened was against the law. Therefore, after scrutinizing all the aspects of this matter they made a decision about whether Rajendra Kolhe was guilty or not, and if he was, what punishment he should get.

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Judgement Reviewed By- Shramana Sengupta

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Supreme Court Acquits Murder Accused Due to Doubts Surrounding Prosecution Case

Case Title: JAGVIR SINGH Versus STATE OF U.P.

Case No: 3684 OF 2023

Decided on: 7th May, 2024

Quorum: HON’BLE MR. JUSTICE MEHTA

Facts of the case

The documents are court records from a criminal case in which the accused appellant was found guilty of firing rounds that killed a person by the name of Sanju. To prove the accused appellant’s guilt, the prosecution cited the eyewitness accounts of Ram Prakash (PW-1), Sultan Singh (PW-2), and Ram Naresh (PW-5). The distance between the spots where the gunshots were fired and the witnesses’ places made it physically impossible for them to have witnessed the incident, according to the defense, who said that these witnesses were unreliable and had not been at the crime scene . In the end, the accused appellant was found not guilty when the appeal against the conviction was granted.

Issues

1. Whether the eyewitness testimony was untrustworthy, the court was urged to overturn the verdict and acquit?

Legal Provisions

The Indian Penal Code, 1860 (IPC) was the main source of the relevant legal legislation. The following are the main ideas and legal requirements:

IPC Section 302: This section addresses the penalty for murder.

Section 34 IPC, which deals with acts committed by multiple people in furtherance of a common intention, and this section were the original grounds for the accused jagvir Singh’s conviction.This section creates joint liability when a criminal act is committed by multiple people in furtherance of the common intention of all

Appellant’s Contentions

Due to concerns over the witnesses’ veracity, the defense argued that the eyewitness testimony was untrustworthy and urged the court to overturn the verdict and acquit Jagvir Singh. On the other hand, the State fiercely disagreed, highlighting the concurrent rulings of the trial Court and High Court, endorsing Jagvir Singh’s conviction for shooting the deceased, according to eyewitness accounts.

Respondent’s Contentions

The State angrily refuted the defense’s claims, emphasizing the trial and the High Court’s concurrent conclusions based on eyewitness accounts, which upheld Jagvir Singh’s conviction for shooting the deceased.

 Court Analysis and Judgement

Due to concerns about the eyewitnesses’ veracity, the appellant’s attorney claimed that the eyewitness testimony was untrustworthy and urged the court to overturn the verdict and acquit the accused. In contrast, the State’s attorney urged the Court to reject the appeal and uphold the conviction by highlighting the simultaneous convictions of guilt by two courts based on eyewitness testimony. Due to mistakes in the eyewitness identification, the High Court overturned the verdict, cleared the appellant, and allowed him to leave custody right away. The appellant and another were found guilty by the trial court based on the testimony of eyewitnesses; however, their conviction was subsequently reversed. In favor of the appellant’s acquittal, the defense contended that the eyewitnesses were untrustworthy and could not have witnessed the incident because of their location.

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Judgement Analysis Written by – K. Immey Grace

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Supreme Court’s Decisive Verdict in Notable Murder Case: Affirmed the conviction decision of the Trial Court for murder, Highlights Witness Reliability and Legal Scrutiny

Case Title – Anees Vs. The State Government of NCT 2024 INSC 368

Case Number – Criminal Appeal No. 437 of 2015

Dated on – 3rd of May, 2024

Quorum – Justice J.B. Pardiwala

FACTS OF THE CASE

In the case of Anees Vs. The State Government of NCT 2024 INSC 368, Saira, the deceased in the present case, was married to the Appellant of this present case in the year 1982 as per the Muslim rites. They had a daughter from the wedlock, named Shaheena, who was five years old during the incident in 1995. On the 29th of December, 1995, at around 04:00 AM, a wireless operator of the Delhi Police notified a lady constable on duty in a PCR (Police Control Room) concerning a woman being stabbed in the House No. 220, Gali No. 3, Mustafabad. The information was communicated to the duty officer at P.S. Gokulpuri, who sent S.I. Mohkam Singh for inquiry. SI Mohkam Singh, upon reaching the location, found Saira lying in a pool of blood with multiple wounds of stabbings on her body. The Appellant was also present on the scene, having superficial injuries. Saira was declared deceased upon arrival at the hospital, whereas the Appellant was discharged after being preliminarily treated. The fact that the Appellant and the deceased had a strained relationship, often resulting a quarrel due to the habit of the deceased to leave the house without informing and returning late at night was unveiled during the investigations. It was alleged that on the night of the incident, a quarrel occurred between the Appellant and the deceased, leading to the Appellant stabbing the deceased with a knife. The only eye-witness in this case was the daughter of the Appellant and the deceased, Shaheena. An FIR was registered against the Appellant under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 based on a report prepared by the Investigating Officer. The post-mortem of the deceased revealed that she had sustained multiple stab injuries, indicating a violent attack. Shaheena, the daughter, initially claimed to witness the incident as her father, the Appellant, inflicting injuries on her mother but during the trial, she turned hostile. The knife used to stab the deceased was discovered at the instance of the Appellant. The Trial Court, after taking into consideration, all the evidences and witness, convicted the Appellant under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, sentencing him to life imprisonment and a fine. The High Court upheld the judgment of the Trial Court, stressing on the inconsistencies in the statements of the Appellant and his conduct, rejecting the explanations of the defense. The Appellant instituted an Appeal in the Supreme Court of India.

ISSUES

The main issue of the case whirled around whether the Appellant, accused of murdering his wife Saira, is guilty of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt?

Whether the testimonies of the witnesses, inclusive of the daughter Shaheena, is reliable and consistent?

Whether the post-mortem report and the forensic analysis of the evidence provide conclusive proof of the guilt of the Appellant?

Whether the inconsistent statement of the Appellant and his conduct, including his initial silence and subsequent explanation, contribute to establishing his culpability?

Whether the Appellant is entitled to the benefit of Exception 4 to Section 300 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860?

Whether the judgment of the Trial Court and the High Court of the conviction of the Appellant based on the evidence furnished during the trial justifiable?

LEGAL PROVISIONS

Section 8 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 prescribes the Motive, Preparation and Previous or Subsequent Conduct

Section 27 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 prescribes that How much of information received from accused may be proved

Section 101 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 prescribes the Burden of Proof

Section 105 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 prescribes the Burden of Proving that case of accused comes within exception

Section 106 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 prescribes that the Burden of proving fact especially within knowledge

Section 145 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 prescribes the Cross Examination as to previous statements in writing

Section 300 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 prescribes the Definition of Murder

Section 300 Exception 4 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 prescribes that If the person committing the act knows that it is so imminently dangerous that it must, in all probability, cause death, or such bodily injury as is likely to cause death, and commits such act without any excuse for incurring the risk of causing death or such injury as aforesaid.

Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 prescribes the Punishment for Murder

Section 161 of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 prescribes the Examination of Witnesses by police

Section 162 of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 prescribes that the Statements to police not to be signed

Section 311 of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 prescribes the Power to summon material witness, or examine person present

Section 313 of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 prescribes the Power to examine the accused

CONTENTIONS OF THE APPELLANTS

The Appellants, through their counsel, in the said case contented that the case of the Respondents is entirely based on the circumstantial evidences and that Respondents failed to establish foundational facts for invoking the Section 106 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872. The Appellants cited the case of Sharad Birdhichand Sarda Vs. State of Maharashtra (1984) 4 SCC 116 and stated that it was accentuated that for a conviction based on the circumstantial evidences, the circumstances must be consistent only with the guilt of the accused and inconsistent with innocence.

The Appellants, through their counsel, in the said case contented that the sole eyewitness, Shaheena (PW-3) did not support the case of the Respondent and that her testimony suggested that the strangers entered the house, causing injuries to both the Appellant and the deceased.

The Appellants, through their counsel, in the said case contented that Sayed Ali (PW-9), the witness for the discovery of the knife, turned hostile and failed to prove the contents of the discovery panchnama.

The Appellants, through their counsel, in the said case contented that SI Mohkam Singh (PW-17) admitted that he questioned Shaheena before forwarding the written report to the police station, but this fact was not included in the written report and that this inconsistency raises doubts regarding the credibility of the testimony of the Investigating Officer.

The Appellants, through their counsel, in the said case contented that the Respondents failed to establish any motive for the Appellant to commit the crime and that no witness was examined to support the assumption that an altercation had arisen due to the deceased arriving home late at night.

The Appellants, through their counsel, in the said case contented that even if the case of the Respondent is accepted as true, it falls within the exception 4 to Section 300 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 that the alleged crime occurred in a sudden fight upon a sudden quarrel without any criminal intent.

 CONTENTIONS OF THE RESPONDENTS

The Respondents, through their counsel, in the said case contented that there was no error on the part of the High Court, specifically errors of law, in dismissing the appeal of the Appellant and upholding the conviction issued by the Trial Court.

The Respondents, through their counsel, in the said case contented the following incriminating circumstances as foundational facts in support of the invocation of the Section 106 of the Indian Evidence Act –

The incident occurred inside the house of residence of the Appellant and the deceased, where the deceased was found severely injured.

The Appellant was present at the scene when the Investigating Officer arrived, indicating his proximity to the crime.

The Appellant did not disclose immediately to the Investigating officer that unidentified individuals entered the house and assaulted the deceased.

The Appellant’s story about unidentified individuals entered the house and assaulted the deceased, was contradictory to the other circumstances.

The false explanation of the Appellant recorded under the Section 313 of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973, was another incriminating circumstance.

The clothes worn by the Appellant at the time of the incident had blood stains matching the blood group of the deceased.

Even though the discovery of the weapon may not have been established, the conduct of the Appellant, leading the Investigating Officer and witnesses to a nearby drain where the knife was claimed to have been found reflects negatively on him, according to the Section 8 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872

The Respondents, through their counsel, in the said case contented that there is no merit in the appeal of the Appellant and that its dismissal is requested.

COURT ANALYSIS AND JUDGMENT

The court in the case of Anees Vs. The State Government of NCT 2024 INSC 368, considered the decision of the court in the State of W.B. Vs. Mir Mohammad Omar & Ors, (2000)8 SCC 382, and stated that the court should apply section 106 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 in Criminal cases with care and caution and that it cannot be said that it has no application to criminal cases. The court stated that to infer the guilt of the accused from the absence of the reasonable explanation in a case where the other circumstances are not by themselves enough to call for his explanation is to relieve the prosecution of its legitimate burden. So, until a prima facie case is established by such evidence, the onus does not shift to be accused. The court stated that although the conduct of an accused may be a relevant fact under the Section 8 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872, it still cannot be a ground to convict the accused for a serious offense like murder and that the court cannot Suo moto make use of statements to police not proved and ask questions with reference to them which are inconsistent with the testimony of the witness in the court. The court observed that the cross examination of the Respondent of hostile witnesses were insufficient. The court stressed on the duty of the Respondent to thoroughly cross examine the witnesses to uncover the truth, especially in cases where witnesses turn hostile. Further, the court criticized the passive role of the judge of the Trial Court, particularly considering the sensitive nature of the case involving a child witness. The Court rejected the argument of killing occurring due to the heat of the moment, stating that the Appellant failed to meet the criteria outlined in Exception 4. The court acknowledged the lengthy incarceration of the Appellant and granted him liberty to submit a representation to the State Government seeking remission of sentence. The State Government was directed to consider the representation within four weeks and communicate its decision to the Appellant.
The court dismissed the appeal, affirming the conviction decision of the Trial Court for murder. The court disposed off any pending applications. The judgment accentuated the importance of effective prosecution, judicial oversight, and adherence to legal principles in ensuring fair trials and dispensation of justice.

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Judgement Reviewed by – Sruti Sikha Maharana

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“The Supreme “Court reverses a High Court decision in a murder case where the victim’s motive was rooted in financial envy.” 

Case Title: Kirpal Singh v. State of Punjab 

Case No.: CRIMINAL APPEAL NO(S). 1052 OF 2009 

Dated On: April 18, 2024 

Quorum: Justice B R Gavai and Justice Sandeep Mehta 

 

FACTS OF THE CASE: 

The initial witness, Sharan Kaur, was the spouse of the deceased Balwinder Singh (dead). Her family used to live in the house behind the grocery and halwai stores that her husband had near the bus stop in Khudda.  

On the intervening night of November 12–13, 1997, Sharan Kaur slept in a room on the ground floor with the rest of the family, while Balwinder Singh (dead) slept in the house’s chaubara, which lacked a shutter. At at 2:30 in the morning, Sharan Kaur is said to have heard a knock on the door of the room where she was resting.  

She opened the door since she believed her husband to be the one who had knocked. She observed the accused appellant, Kirpal Singh, standing there brandishing a chura-style knife in the courtyard’s lighting. Sharan Kaur suffered an injury to her abdomen at the hands of the appellant. Kirpal Singh, the appellant, was being followed by another attacker who grabbed her arm.  

Her boys Goldy and Sonu awoke when she set off an alarm and said, “killed killed.” None of the three individuals were able to identify the second attacker. By opening the main gate between the two stores, both attackers were able to escape. As Sharan Kaur went upstairs to check on her husband, she discovered him lying on the cot with terrible injuries and blood seeping from his head and mouth. On the ground below, blood accumulated. There was nothing he could say.  

Balwinder Singh passed away en route to the Civil Hospital in Tanda with Sharan Kaur in tow. Sharan Kaur received first aid; after that, both she and the deceased Balwinder Singh’s body were returned.  

The prosecution claims that jealousy between the appellant and his associate over the booming business being done at Balwinder Singh’s (deceased) halwai shop—which was doing much better than the halwai shop run by the accused appellant—was the driving force behind the incident.  

Through a common judgement and order dated 28.02.2008, which is contested in this appeal filed at the accused appellant’s request, the learned Division Bench of the High Court of Punjab and Haryana went on to dismiss both the appeals, one by the State and the other by the accused-appellant, as well as the revision filed by the complainant.Krishna Singh  

 

 

CONTENTIONS OF THE APPELLANT: 

According to the prosecution, the reason for the incident was that the accused appellant and his associate were harbouring jealousy towards Balwinder Singh’s (deceased) booming halwai business, which was performing significantly better than the accused appellant’s halwai shop.  

The accused appellant fiercely argued that the conclusions listed in the contested judgement are irrational and contradictory, and as such, they should be overturned. 

He made the following relevant arguments in his request for the accused appellant to be exonerated:  

Daljit Singh @ Goldy , the deceased’s son, and Sharan Kaur , the first informant and the deceased’s wife, provide wildly inconsistent, inconsistent, and unpersuasive testimony. Further, the prosecution witnesses have attempted throughout the proceedings to embellish the narrative provided in the FIR; as a result, their testimony ought to be disregarded.  

They, further alleged that both the trial court and the high court concluded that the co-accused, Kulwinder Singh, was not guilty of the charges made against him and that the witnesses, Shan Kaur and Daljit Singh @ Goldy, were not entirely credible. As a result, Culwinder Singh was declared not guilty. Consequently, Kirpal Singh, the accused-appellant, likewise merits the same handling.  

Closure reports were filed by the police in the relevant Court after the defence witnesses unequivocally declared that, following a comprehensive investigation, the accusations made by the first informant, Shawn Kaur, were confirmed to be untrue.  

According to the testimony of Daljit Singh @ Goldy, the dead Balwinder Singh’s son, and the initial informant, Sharan Kaur, the case is accepted. However, the four servants who were seen having sex with the deceased Balwinder Singh in the house’s chaubara were not questioned or put on trial. Similarly, the prosecution did not question Gurmit Singh, the deceased’s other son and the first informant, it is a suitable instance that justifies or allows for the drawing of an adverse inference against the prosecution for the reasons that are best known to them. 

 

CONTENTIONS OF THE RESPONDENT: 

The State’s skilled counsel fiercely and passionately refuted the arguments put out by the appellant’s counsel. He acknowledged that the prosecution’s version of events regarding accused Kulwinder Singh’s involvement did not sit well with the trial court or the High Court, but he maintained that this did not constitute a good enough excuse to throw out the prosecution’s entire case, including the accused appellant who was mentioned in the FIR and the testimony of the key prosecution witness.  

He fiercely argued that minor inconsistencies in the prosecution witnesses’ testimony provide reassurance that they are real witnesses and not made-up witnesses. His argument was that the Indian criminal justice system did not follow the idea of “falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus,” and as a result, only when one of the two accused parties named by the prosecution. 

He further argued that both the trial court and the high court had found the accused appellant guilty of the charges after separating the grain from the chaff and reappreciating the evidence. As a result, the court should be reluctant to intervene in these concurrent findings of facts made by the trial court and the high court. Lean legal counsel representing the State argued on these grounds that the appeal should be dismissed because it is without merit.  

 

LEGAL PROVISION: 

Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code- The appellant was convicted under this section, which deals with the offense of murder. It prescribes punishment for intentionally causing the death of another person.   

Section 307 of the Indian Penal Code- Whoever commits any act with such intent or knowledge, and under such circumstances, that if he caused death by that act, he would be guilty of murder, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term of up to ten years, as well as a fine; and if such act causes harm to any person, the offender shall be punished with either life imprisonment or the punishment mentioned above.  

 

COURT’S ANALYSIS AND JUDGMENT: 

The court held that using the ladder that the prosecution had erected on the house wall, they attempted to prove that the accused had used it to climb into the chaubara and struck the deceased Balwinder Singh with a spade, causing serious injuries. According to Sharan Kaur’s testimony (PW.5), the accused was jealous of her husband’s successful halwai business, which was causing her own business to struggle. This jealousy was the purpose behind the incident.  

The court further observed that Sharan Kaur makes a similarly nebulous statement on this subject. Nothing in the accused’s deposition can persuade the court that the accused would go to the extreme of erecting a ladder against the wall of the home where the deceased Balwinder Singh used to live with his family and then climb up and murder him—that too in front of his family members—just because of this alleged jealousy.  

It was also held that the identity of the second accused, Kulwinder Singh, is not listed as one of the attackers in either the FIR (Exhibit-PG/2) or the application (Exhibit-DA), which was signed by the first informant, Sharan Kaur, and sent to the Chief Minister of Punjab. There is no denying the intimate ties between the first informant and the deceased’s family and the acquitted accused Kulwinder Singh and appellant Kirpal Singh.  

As per the court, given that the first informant stated during her chief interrogation that her son had brought a van to transport her and her husband to the Civil Hospital in Tanda, where the medical officers concluded that her husband had passed away and that she had undergone a medical examination, there is much reason to seriously doubt the veracity of her deposition. Nevertheless, they did not accept this assessment and brought the patient to Bhogpur, where the medical professionals once more confirmed that her spouse had passed away.  

The court observed that the prosecution’s motive story was implausible so as to be taken at face value. After doing a comprehensive investigation, two investigating officers discovered that the original informant, Shawn Kaur, had made up the entire case. Considering that the first informant attempted to implicate Kulwinder Singh through many petitions filed while the investigation was still continuing and even in her testimony during the trial, her actions are not deserving of trust.  

The court, by extending the benefit of the doubt, held the appellant is deserving of being found not guilty. As a consequence, the trial court’s and the high court’s rulings from July 26, 2003, and hereby annulled and set aside, as of February 28, 2008, accordingly. The accused is found not guilty of the allegations. During the course of this appeal, the appellant’s sentence was instructed by this Court to be suspended on August 12, 2011, and he is currently free on bail. The bail bonds are released, and he is not required to surrender.  

 

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Judgment reviewed by Riddhi S Bhora.  

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“Supreme Court Overturns Conviction: Lack of Conclusive Evidence Leads to Acquittal in Landmark Criminal Appeal”

Case Title – Arun Shankar Vs. The State Of Madhya Pradesh (2024 INSC 298)

Case Number – Criminal Appeal No. 001186-001186/2022

Order Number – 5th December, 2017

Quorum – Justice Abhay Shreeniwas Oka

 FACTS OF THE CASE

 In the case of Arun Shankar Vs. The State Of Madhya Pradesh (2024 INSC 298), the appellant and the deceased (Sushildhar Dubey) were related and were residents of a village named Amgaon. Both the appellant and the deceased were habituated to consume alcoholic beverages together. On September 29, 1993, the appellant visited the house of the deceased and implored him to partake in consuming alcohol. This scenario was spectated by a witness. However, nobody witnessed any further sightings of the deceased. Subsequently, the deceased’s body was retrieved on 30th September,1993. The appellant was convicted by the Sessions Court under Section 201 and 302 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 which was duly confirmed by the High Court. Further, the appellant was sentenced to serve for life imprisonment. However, the appellant was acquitted by the High Court due to lack of Conclusive Evidence.

CONTENTIONS OF THE APPELLANT

  1. The appellant, through their counsel, in the said case contented that the respondent’s argument on the “Last Seen Together” Evidence is deemed to be a weak piece of evidence taking into consideration the close relationship between the appellant and the deceased.
  2. The appellant, through their counsel, in the said case contented that the knife retrieved at the appellant’s instance could not be concluded to be knife possibly used for the purpose of murder of the deceased since the knife could have been planted to deliberately implicate the appellant.
  3. The appellant, through their counsel, in the said case contented that the respondent failed to prove the motive for the commission of the offense on the part of the appellant given the good relationship between the appellant and the deceased.

CONTENTIONS OF THE RESPONDENT

  1. The respondent, through their counsel, in the said case contented that the case is based on circumstantial evidences and that the legal principles administering the case is well established.
  2. The respondent, through their counsel, in the said case contented that the circumstantial evidences in this case are- (i) Recovery of the knife alleged to be used in the commission of the murder of the deceased, (ii) Medical report of the deceased’s bodily injuries and the cause of death, (iii) The last seen together, and (iv) The habit of consuming alcoholic beverages together.
  3. The respondent, through their counsel, in the said case contented that the use of the knife was proven and that all required circumstance forming parts of the chain of events have been established.
  4. The respondent, through their counsel, in the said case contented that taking into consideration the oral testimony of the PW-7 and PW-15 collectively, the theory of death of the deceased due a motorcycle accident cannot entirely be discounted. Hence, the benefit of doubt should be on the appellant.
  5. The respondent, through their counsel, in the said case contented that the body was discovered in close proximity of the last known presence of the appellant and the deceased.

LEGAL PROVISIONS

  1. Section 201 of IPC prescribes the Punishment for causing disappearance of evidence of offence, or giving false information to screen offender
  2. Section 302 of IPC prescribes the Punishment for Murder – Whoever commits murder shall be punished with death, or [imprisonment for life], and shall also be liable to fine.

ISSUES 

  1. The main issue of the case revolved around whether for the purpose of conviction of the appellant for the offenses of murder and destruction of evidence, the furnished by the respondent was enough?
  2. The issue of the case also involved whether the assertion of the defense concerning the weaknesses of the circumstantial evidence and the absence of motive held merit?

COURT ANALYSIS AND JUDGMENT

The court in the case of Arun Shankar Vs. The State Of Madhya Pradesh (2024 INSC 298) observed that there is a grammatical and legal differentiation between ‘May be proved’ or ‘Must be or should be proved’ and that the accused is needed to be strongly proven guilty, not assumed to be guilty before a court can convict the accused. The court analysed that there should be consistency of the circumstances only with the hypothesis of the accused’s guilt and that the nature of the circumstances should be conclusive and tendency. The court highlighted that it remained unproven the discovery of the murder weapon at the instance of the appellant and that it remained a mystery, the presence of a large number of glasses in and around the place of the discovery of the body of the deceased. The court stated that the chain of circumstances was unestablished and that the theory of last scene was not proved in the absence of any motive on the part of the appellant to cause the death of the deceased since the appellant being in the company of the deceased was habitual and usual.

Hence, the court in the case of Arun Shankar Vs. The State Of Madhya Pradesh (2024 INSC 298) stated that since the appellant is on bail, he is allowed and the impugned judgments are set aside. Moreover, the bail bonds of the appellant are cancelled. The court decided that the conviction of the appellant cannot be sustained and the appellant is thus acquitted of all charges imposed on him.

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Judgement Reviewed by – Sruti Sikha Maharana

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