Suspicion, Howsoever Grave, Can't Substitute Proof In Criminal Trial, Reiterates SC [Read Judgment]

Suspicion, Howsoever Grave, Can

"Though the materials on record hold some suspicion towards them, but the prosecution has failed to elevate its case from the realm of "may be true" to the plane of "must be true" as is indispensably required in law for conviction on a criminal charge."

"In a criminal trial, suspicion, howsoever grave, cannot substitute proof", reiterated the Supreme Court while allowing the appeals filed by two murder accused.

Devi Lal and Babu Lal were convicted by the trial court after it found them guilty of murder of one Dharam Chand. The conviction was mainly based on circumstantial evidence and also taking into account the extrajudicial confession made by accused Babu Lal to one Shambhu Singh. They approached the apex court challenging the conviction affirmed by the high court.

The bench comprising CJI Ranjan Gogoi, Justice KM Joseph and Justice Ajay Rastogi observed that an extrajudicial confession is used against its maker but as a matter of caution, it was advisable for the court to look for corroboration with the other evidence on record. In this case, the court said that there were no additional cogent circumstances on record to rely on the confession.

Referring to the circumstances narrated in the trial court judgment, the bench observed: "Without going into detailed scrutiny of the facts on record under consideration, the circumstances which emerged and taken note of under the impugned judgment in itself gives a suspicion in completing the chain of commission of crime beyond doubt, being committed by the accused appellants."

Referring to earlier judgments, the bench observed: "It has been propounded that while scrutinising the circumstantial evidence, a Court has to evaluate it to ensure the chain of events is established clearly and completely to rule out any reasonable likelihood of innocence of the accused. The underlying principle is whether the chain is complete or not, indeed it would depend on the facts of each case emanating from the evidence and there cannot be a straight jacket formula which can be laid down for the purpose. But the circumstances adduced when considered collectively, it must lead only to the conclusion that there cannot be a person other than the accused who alone is the perpetrator of the crime alleged and the circumstances must establish the conclusive nature consistent only with the hypothesis of the guilt of the accused."

Giving benefit of doubt to the accused, the court, while acquitting them, further observed: "Though the materials on record hold some suspicion towards them, but the prosecution has failed to elevate its case from the realm of "may be true" to the plane of "must be true" as is indispensably required in law for conviction on a criminal charge. It is trite to state that in a criminal trial, suspicion, howsoever grave, cannot substitute proof."

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