21 April 2022 9:06 AM GMT
The Allahabad High Court recently set aside the life sentence awarded to two murder accused as it noted that the prosecution had failed to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the appellants/accused had murdered the deceased, who was allegedly their helper.The Bench of Justice Manoj Misra and Justice Sameer Jain further observed that was a complete lack of evidence of the deceased being last...
The Allahabad High Court recently set aside the life sentence awarded to two murder accused as it noted that the prosecution had failed to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the appellants/accused had murdered the deceased, who was allegedly their helper.
The Bench of Justice Manoj Misra and Justice Sameer Jain further observed that was a complete lack of evidence of the deceased being last seen alive with the accused, and therefore, the Court did not find it safe to confirm the conviction of the accused-appellants for the charge of murder of the deceased.
The case in brief
As per the FIR, it was alleged that in the evening of December 30, 1999, the accused/appellants Naresh Kumar Sharma and his brother Satish Sharma brought their help Jaiveer/Mahaveer (deceased), took him to the upper 2 storey of their house, assaulted him and, thereafter, brought him on their shoulder to the ground floor and locked him in their shop.
It was alleged that the informant heard Jaiveer crying, and in the morning the informant came to know that Jaiveer was dead. During the course of the investigation, the body of the deceased was got identified and it was found to be not of Jaiveer but of Mahaveer.
Trial Court's findings
The trial court took into account the fact that the body was recovered from the shop of the accused; that the medical evidence indicated that that man was killed; that the body was identified to be of Mahaveer; that it was proved that Mahaveer was employed as a helper by the accused.
The Court further found that the accused had visited the house of Mahaveer to demand vehicle papers, which Mahaveer seemed to be withholding in lieu of his salary dues, and had threatened Mahaveer of dire consequences; that the accused resided on the upper floor of the building in the ground floor of which there was the shop from where the body of Mahaveer was recovered; and that sticks used to assault the deceased was recovered at the instance of appellant no.2.
Noting that these circumstances completed a chain, pointing toward the guilt of the accused-appellant and, therefore, in absence of explanation, the appellants were liable to be convicted. In addition to the above, on the basis of recovery of a country-made pistol, appellant no.2 Naresh Kumar was convicted under section 25 of the Arms Act.
Both the accused/appellants were awarded life imprisonment, challenging the same, they had moved to the High Court.
High Court's observations and order
At the outset, the Court noted that the prosecution evidence was totally lacking as to whether the deceased used to reside with the accused/appellants or in the shop where his body was found, the Court also opine that the prosecution could lead no evidence to demonstrate that there was any employment relationship b/w the appellants and the accused, and the dispute, had continued till about the time of the incident.
Further, the Court pointed out the following key features that were missing from in the prosecution evidence and they were:
- No direct eyewitness account of the incident.
- No substantive evidence on record that the deceased was seen alive in the house or in the shop of the appellants with the appellants;
- The shop from where the body of the deceased is stated to have been recovered has a semi-built floor and nothing has been brought on record that in the shop commercial goods or tradeable goods belonging to the accusedappellants were present; and
- Nothing had been brought on record to show that to retrieve the body of the deceased from inside the shop any door had to be broke open or that the shop was bolted from outside or there was a lock put on the door of the shop of which the key was with the accused.
Significantly, regarding the nature of the injury, the Court noted that except for the head injury, there was no fatal injury o the body of the deceased and that the Doctor had opined that the head injury could be on account of banging the head with the wall or hard object.
Against this backdrop, the Court observed that the circumstances sought to be proved by the prosecution threw multiple hypotheses not inconsistent with the innocence of the accused/appellants and therefore, the Court added, even if there had been no proper explanation on the part of the accused, it would not be appropriate to presume their guilt by taking recourse to the provisions of section 106 of the Evidence Act.
"The body of the deceased is shown inside the shop at some distance from the open space outside the house. It has not been established by any evidence as to who is the owner and in exclusive possession of that shop. It has also not been established by any evidence that the deceased used to reside as a helper in the premises of the accused or in that shop. Further, there is no clear and specific evidence that the place from where the body of the deceased was recovered is not accessible to anybody except the accused or inmates of the house of the accused. Thus, keeping in mind that there is a complete lack of evidence of the deceased being last seen alive with the accused, it would not be safe on our part to convict the accused-appellants for the charge of murder of the deceased, particularly, when the body of the deceased carried only one fatal injury on the head which could be a consequence of banging the head on the wall or on the iron gate or any hard substance. In so far as the evidence of recovery of the bamboo stick is concerned, that becomes doubtful because the witnesses of recovery have not only denied the recovery but have also denied their signatures on the recovery memo yet, no effort was made by the Investigating Officer to prove their signature. Further, bamboo sticks are freely available in the market and are commonly found in every house. Importantly, those bamboo sticks were not sent for forensic examination to find out whether there is any mark of human blood on it. In view of the above discussion, we are of the view that the prosecution has not been successful in proving the guilt of the appellants beyond reasonable doubt for the charge of an offence punishable under Section 302 read with Section 34 IPC," the Court further remarked as it set aside the conviction and life sentence awarded to them
In so far as the conviction of the appellant no.2 for the offence punishable under Section 25 Arms Act was concerned, the court gave a benefit of doubt to the accused as the court noted that the recovery was stated to have been made while the police was in the process of arresting the accused and no public witness was available who could prove such recovery.
Consequently, the appeal was allowed. The impugned judgment and order of the trial court was set aside. The appellants were acquitted of the charges for which they were tried and convicted.
Case title - Satish Sharma And Another v State of U.P. [CRIMINAL APPEAL No. - 5824 of 2010]
Case citation: 2022 LiveLaw (All) 190
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