The Karnataka High Court recently set aside the conviction of a man, incarcerated since 13 years, for the offence of murder under Section 302 IPC. The Court thus set aside the life term imposed by Special CBI Court and ordered his forthwith release.
The order was passed by a division bench of Justice B. Veerappa and Justice S. Rachaiah in the appeal filed preferred by Shivaprasad, a driver, who was acquitted for alleged robbery at a house but was convicted for the owner's murder.
The Bench was of the view,
"Once the prosecution failed to prove the 'murder for gain' and acquitted the accused for the offence punishable under Sections 392 and 397 of the Indian Penal Code, in the absence of any material produced by the prosecution to the effect that robbery and murder took place on same transaction and in the absence of any eye witness to the incident, it is not safe to convict the accused under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code."
"The paramount consideration of the Court is to ensure that miscarriage of justice is prevented. A miscarriage of justice which may arise from acquittal of the guilty is no less than from the conviction of an innocent."
It was alleged that the accused entered the house of deceased Thulasi on June 27, 2008 with an intent to steal her jewels. He was alleged to have stabbed her on the neck and other parts of the body. In the scuffle, it was stated that the victim snatched the knife and attempted to assault the accused with the said knife which resulted in his sustaining scratch injury on his left cheek. Thereafter, the accused went to the first floor of the house and took away 905 grams of gold kept in the godrej almirah, along with other valuables.
Based on the complaint made by the son, the police registered a complaint and after investigation filed a charge sheet against the accused for the offence punishable under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code. The sessions court passed the impugned order on 19 March 2019, acquitting the accused for the offence of Robbery punishable under Sections 392 and 397 of IPC but convicting him with imprisonment for life for the offence of Murder.
At the outset, the Bench observed that since the acquittal order (qua offence of Robbery) has not been challenged by the prosecution, the same has reached finality. Thus, once the accused is acquitted for the offence punishable under Sections 392 and 397 of IPC, the burden shifts on the prosecution to prove the involvement of the accused in the homicidal death of the victim to attract the provisions of Section 302 IPC.
The High Court was of the view that evidence of the prosecution witnesses does not prove the involvement of the accused in the homicidal death of the deceased. All the prosecution witnesses had only spoken about robbery.
"Very strangely, the learned Sessions Judge proceeded to convict the accused for the offence punishable under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code holding that there is sufficient material available to prove the guilt of the accused in the homicidal death of the deceased. Absolutely no material has been produced by the prosecution to show that robbery and murder formed part of the same transaction. The presumption that the accused committed murder cannot be drawn merely on the basis of the recovery," the Court observed.
"In the absence of any eye witness, and since the prosecution has not proved the chain of circumstances connecting the accused in the homicidal death of the deceased, it is not safe to convict the accused for the offence punishable under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code, in the absence of any corroborative evidence with regard to involvement of accused in the homicidal death of the deceased."
It concluded by saying, "The golden thread which runs through the web of administration of justice in criminal cases is that if two views are possible on the evidence adduced in the case, one pointing to the guilt of the accused and the other to his innocence, the view which is favourable to the accused should be adopted."
Accordingly it allowed the appeal and set aside the conviction.
Case Title: SHIVAPRASAD @ SHIVA v. State of Karnataka
Case No: CRIMINAL APPEAL No.573/2019
Citation: 2022 LiveLaw (Kar) 167
Date of Order: 17TH DAY OF MAY, 2022
Appearance: Advocate B.A.BELLIAPPA for appellant
Advocate K. NAGESHWARAPPA for respondent